Trump stakes out new trade direction

The China Post news staff with agencies

TAIPEI, Taiwan — It didn’t take President Donald Trump long to make himself felt in Asia. In one of his administration’s first acts, coming just hours after the billionaire’s swearing-in, the White House followed through on promises to kill a massive trade pact that Taiwan had hoped to join and that was a central plank of his predecessor’s pivot to the Pacific. A statement on confirmed that the U.S. would walk away from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as part of a new “American First” approach to foreign policy. “This strategy starts by withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and making certain that any new trade deals are in the interests of American workers,” the statement reads. Trump had assumed power earlier Friday with a fiercely nationalistic vow to put “America first” in front of hundreds of thousands of people on the rain-splattered National Mall.

Eleven countries have signed up for the TPP, though it has yet to take effect, with only one country — Japan — having ratified it so far. The U.S.’ dropout is widely seen as being a final nail in the coffin for the deal, which had met strong opposition from labor groups in both the U.S. and Asia. Taiwan had been keen to join the trade bloc, but Gordon Sun (孫明德), director of the Economic Forecasting Center under the Taiwan Institute of Economic Research, said things had changed and that Taiwan should seek a new approach in an era without the TPP. Sun said Taiwan has been pushing for its “New Southbound Policy,” so it was necessary for the country to seek how to build up a link between this policy and its trade ties with the U.S. under the Trump administration. Beginning of Obamacare’s End? Trump’s TPP pullout was far from the only effort he took on Day 1 to roll back the legacy of his predecessor, Barack Obama. In an opening salvo against Obamacare, Trump on Friday night signed an executive order that appeared aimed squarely at undoing the unpopular requirement that individuals carry insurance or face fines.

The order directs federal agencies to stop issuing regulations that would expand the law’s reach. And it directs them to grant waivers, exemptions and delays of provisions in the Affordable Care Act that would impose costs on states or individuals, potentially including the law’s penalties on people who remain uninsured.

Defense Chief Sworn In Also shortly after the president’s inauguration, retired Marine general James Mattis was sworn in as U.S. defense secretary, praising intelligence agencies and calling for stronger ties with allies in a break from positions taken by Trump. Mattis was confirmed by a 98-1 vote earlier Friday in the first action taken by U.S. senators after Trump took the oath of office, and was sworn in by Vice President Mike Pence. Lawmakers passed a special waiver allowing Mattis, who retired in 2013, to serve before a customary seven-year limit on former military personnel assuming the Pentagon’s top post.

John Kelly, another retired Marine general, was also confirmed and sworn in to head the Department of Homeland Security. “These uniquely qualified leaders will immediately begin the important work of rebuilding our military, defending our nation and securing our borders,” Trump said in a statement. “I am proud to have these two American heroes join my administration.”