Trump tells Congress he’ll seek trade deals with U.K., Japan, European Union

October 16, 2018 GMT

The Trump administration informed Congress on Tuesday that it intends to pursue new trade deals with Japan, the U.K. and the European Union.

The notification is an early step in the process, and will be followed by a back-and-forth with Congress over goals the U.S. needs to achieve. Only after that can the administration even begin negotiations.

The announcement suggests Mr. Trump, after having updated one trade deal with Mexico and Canada and another with South Korea, is looking for more action.

“Under President Trump’s leadership, we will continue to expand U.S. trade and investment by negotiating trade agreements with Japan, the EU and the United Kingdom,” said U.S. Trade Ambassador Robert Lighthizer. “We are committed to concluding these negotiations with timely and substantive results for American workers, farmers, ranchers and businesses.”

Pursuing new deals could help quiet angst on Capitol Hill from both Democrats and Republicans who have fretted over the president’s penchant for using tariffs to punish economic competitors, including some close allies of the U.S.

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, chairman of the Finance Committee, said Mr. Trump should pursue updated agreements.

“A trade agenda that prioritizes free trade and open markets is the best ways to defend American interests and strengthen our economy,” the Utah Republican said.

The Obama administration had talked about pursuing a new trade deal with European countries, though it remained at the conceptual stage. With Britain’s looming exit from the EU next year, the U.S. must now negotiate with the EU and also with the U.K., which is the fifth largest economy on the globe.

President Obama did reach a deal in 2016 with Pacific Rim nations, the Trans Pacific Partnership, that would have included Japan. Mr. Trump roundly criticized that deal during the campaign and quickly moved to cancel U.S. participation once in office.

But his new signal Tuesday suggests he’s looking for a one-on-one deal with Japan, which is the world’s third largest economy and the biggest prize among the 11 other nations in the TPP.