World leaders, predictably, have responded by suggesting that Trump get bent.
When Donald Trump was campaigning for president, he vowed to tear up existing trade agreements and use his unparalleled dealmaking expertise to strike new, better deals for the U.S. Such promises prompted hordes of dissatisfied Americans to propel him into office, where the ex-Miss Universe owner promptly disappointed. Not only has the C.E.O.-in-chief’s dealmaking prowess been hindered by his complete lack of knowledge when it comes to policy, but he’s shown an alarming tendency to second-guess the few negotiations he has managed to flounder through. Case in point: on his fourth day in the job, Trump withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which he had called a “disaster done and pushed by special interests.” Fourteen months later, how’s that working out? While the Trump administration has yet to come up with a superior replacement for T.P.P., it’s done a great job alienating a whole bunch of allies who signed the deal without the U.S.’s participation. Then, in a move top economic adviser Larry Kudlow described as “out of the dark, navy blue,” Trump on Thursday told his advisers to look into rejoining the deal—on his preferred terms. To which world leaders have essentially responded: you can get in on this thing if you want, but we’re not renegotiating it for your benefit, you anthropomorphized Big Mac.
“We welcome the U.S. coming back to the table, but I don’t see any wholesale appetite for any material renegotiation of the T.P.P.-11,” Australia Trade Minister Steven Ciobo told reporters Friday. Malaysia’s International Trade and Industry Minister Mustapa Mohamed said that any renegotiation would “alter the balance of benefits for parties,” while Japan’s minister in charge of T.P.P., Toshimitsu Motegi, echoed that sentiment, saying it would be very hard to change the deal at this point, describing it as a “balanced one, like fine glassware.”
World leaders could be forgiven for sneering at Mr. Johnny-Come-Lately. It was not long ago that President Art of the Deal was raging against the T.P.P. deal as “a rape of our country” that he was as likely to join as to admit to golden showers with Russian prostitutes. Trump only seemed to undergo a change of heart after receiving a rude awakening last week—one that literally everyone warned would happen—when China responded to his tariff threat with its own tariffs targeting Trump-country products like soybeans and whiskey. With those constituents and congressional Republicans livid over this completely predictable turn of events, he’s now hoping that rejoining T.P.P. will help exert pressure on China, which was the point all along. Now, of course, the C.E.O. president is in a significantly worse negotiating position, though that hasn’t stopped him from acting like the 11 countries who’ve already struck a deal without the U.S. might suddenly come crawling back.
The Great Negotiator, in fact, seems to be making a habit of misunderstanding deals, making a hasty decision, and then trying to reverse course. According to Politico, Trump is so upset by the omnibus spending bill—which he reportedly didn’t read before signing—that he is “moving ahead with plans” to reopen the legislation to claw back some $60 billion. It’s unlikely to happen, and would barely put a dent in the $1.3 trillion bill, anyway, but that’s Trump: begging your negotiating partners to give you concessions after you’ve already given away the farm. Just like in The Art of the Deal.