By Phillip Orchard
During a meeting with farm-state lawmakers last week, U.S. President Donald Trump ordered his economic team to look into rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Trump withdrew the U.S. from the 12-nation trade pact on his first day in office, leaving it for dead as signatories wondered how to offset the loss of the ultimate trade carrot: unfettered access to the world’s largest economy. Improbably, the remaining 11 members found a way, signing a slightly slimmed down pact in March. And now Trump, just as improbably, is rethinking the value of the deal he repeatedly lambasted on the campaign trail.
Let’s be clear: For numerous political and technical reasons, the U.S. won’t rejoin the TPP anytime soon. But even Trump’s notional interest in the pact tells us two things about U.S. trade strategy. First, the political obstacles driving the U.S. away from its historical role as architect of the global trading system are by no means permanent. Second, th