Trump Cancels Obama ‘Free-Trade’ Deal With Communist Vietnam That Legitimized State-Owned Businesses

Terence P. Jeffrey | January 23, 2017 | 3:17pm EST
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President Donald Trump displays the memorandum he had just signed removing the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Jan. 23, 2017. (Screen Capture)

( - President Donald Trump signed a memorandum today removing the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a multinational deal signed by President Barack Obama that sought to create a “free-trade zone” with Vietnam while also expressly legitimizing state ownership of businesses.

“Great thing for the American worker, what we just did,” Trump said while showing the signed memorandum to reporters.

The TPP, which the Obama Administration signed on Feb. 4, 2016, could have been approved by a simple majority vote in both houses of Congress, acting under so-called “fast-track” authority that passed the Republican-controlled House and Senate in 2015.

Trump campaigned against the TPP on his way to winning the 2016 Republican presidential nomination and the presidency.

The TPP negotiated by the Obama Administration would have joined the United States with eleven other nations—including the Socialist Republic of Vietnam—in what was described as a free-trade zone. However, the deal expressly recognized the legitimacy of state ownership of businesses—which is a major part of the socialist economy of Vietnam, a nation that is still ruled by the Communist Party.

“The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a proposed free trade agreement (FTA) among the United States and 11 Asia-Pacific countries,” the Congressional Research Service reported.  These included Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.

The deal also could have added new members after it had been approved by the U.S. Congress. “TPP is envisioned as a ‘living agreement,’ potentially addressing new issues and open to future members, including as a possible vehicle to advance a wider Asia-Pacific free trade area,” CRS reported.

Additional future members could have included the People’s Republic of China.

“Policymakers in TPP countries have ventured that China may seek to join at some point, provided that it could adhere to the standards of the agreement,” CRS reported.

The latest State Department report on human rights in Vietnam noted that that country is run by the Communist Party.

“The Socialist Republic of Vietnam is an authoritarian state ruled by a single party, the Communist Party of Vietnam,” said the State Department report.

The preamble to the TPP stated that the nations that were a party to it recognized the “legitimate role” of government-owned businesses and said that a purpose of the TPP was to “promote a level playing field” between government-owned and privately-owned enterprises.

TPP members, it said, “Affirm that state-owned enterprises can play a legitimate role in the diverse economies of the Parties, while recognizing that the provision of unfair advantages to state-owned enterprises undermines fair and open trade and investment, and resolve to establish rules for state-owned enterprises that promote a level playing field with privately owned businesses, transparency and sound business practices.”

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