His most recent reversal came last week, when a U.S. Treasury report declined to name China as a currency manipulator despite Trump’s repeated promises to formally accuse Beijing — a signature pledge during his campaign trail.
So, what could Trump backtrack on next? One analyst said he hopes it will be the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the world’s largest trade deal that Trump withdrew from in January on the claim that it would hurt U.S. manufacturing.
“Whoever thought that Trump would let China, a rival, off the hook on currency? If he can do that with a country that’s clearly not a friend, maybe he could reconsider reversing himself on TPP for a friend like Japan,” Sean King, senior vice president of Park Strategies, told CNBC on Tuesday.
Japan was set to be a major beneficiary of TPP, particularly the country’s auto sector that would have obtained cheaper access to U.S. markets. Tokyo, which has long lamented the trade pact would be “meaningless” without the U.S., has decided to forge ahead with the other remaining 10 participating nations to revive the deal but many are doubtful of whether the TPP will be a game-changer in Washington’s absence.
Trump still has time to change his mind on TPP, King warned, noting that the treaty text remains valid until February 2018.
“Trump said [TPP] was a disaster, but I’m sure the other members would be willing to make concessions to get the U.S. back in, just like South Korea was willing to make concessions to Obama for his endorsement of the U.S.-Korea [free trade agreement],” King said.
The president’s shifting stances on policy matters have infused American politics with a sense of unpredictability that extends to geopolitical tensions on Syria and North Korea. It’s also impacting Trump’s image at home; only 45 percent of Americans now believe Trump keeps his promises, down from 62 percent in February, according to a Gallup poll that was conducted from April 5 to 9.
Tokyo may snub a US-Japan FTA
Trade is expected to top the agenda when Vice President Mike Pence holds talks with Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso in Tokyo on Tuesday as part of a 10-day Asia tour. Pence is expected to focus on the prospect of a U.S.-Japan free trade agreement (FTA), but Tokyo may not be interested.
“We [the U.S.] are trying to offer them a poor man’s TPP with this FTA idea, but I don’t think Japan has any interest in pursuing that. They want to stick with ideas and principles that were hammered out in TPP,” said King, specifically referring to intellectual property rights as well as market access.
“I think Taro Aso is just going to hear out Pence to be nice to Trump…I don’t expect much to come out of these talks, it’s going to be a bunch of niceties but no real deliverables.”