Is Trump’s waffling part of the deal?

April 26, 2018 GMT

On his first full day in office, President Donald Trump made good on his campaign promise to remove the United States from an agreement to enter the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP. The TPP is an 11-country pact of Pacific Rim nations, including the economic powerhouses of Japan and Australia, designed to reduce trade barriers between the signatories to stimulate international trade and economic growth — but will that decision stick?

Trump said his decision was based on his concerns about losing U.S. manufacturing jobs and his assertion that the deal was bad for America.

This move was not surprising given the president’s move toward protectionist policies and his stated plan to dismantle or completely restructure the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, which was established nearly 30 years ago between the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

Recently, the president seemed to reverse his decision to withdraw the U.S. from the TPP when he indicated that the country might re-enter the pact. However, this decision was short-lived as he subsequently tweeted that he did not like the multicountry trade accord and instead favored the establishment of bilateral trade agreements with individual nations, which he contends are more efficient, profitable and favorable for American workers.

Whereas many people might view Trump’s apparent flip-flop of decisions as being indecisive and perhaps irrational, others might see this as a shrewd negotiation tactic. Trump, who co-authored the book “The Art of the Deal,” is a seasoned business negotiator.

Could his apparent vacillation on U.S. participation in the TPP be part of a negotiation ploy to secure a better deal? Only time will tell.

Most U.S. business leaders are adherents to the tenets of free trade theory and believe that free trade agreements will open up trade and investment opportunities and subsequently lead to greater profit growth, employments levels, and long-term national economic expansion and prosperity.

If one believes in this economic ideology and expected outcomes, then let’s hope that a fair deal can soon be penned.

Jeffrey Johnson is a professor of International Business at St. Mary’s University and director of its Center for Global Business Studies. The views in this article are his own and do not represent those of St. Mary’s University.