Donald Trump Just Pulled Out of a Trade Pact Meant to Help the U.S. Compete With China

Updated: Jan 23, 2017 12:22 PM ET

President Trump took his first steps toward implementing his economic agenda Monday, signing an executive action removing the U.S. from a planned free trade deal and meeting with some of the country's top business leaders.

On Monday, Trump fulfilled a core campaign promise to end U.S. participation the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the accord negotiated by the Bush and Obama administrations that has been held up by bipartisan opposition in Congress amid renewed populist and protectionist fervor.

The Obama Administration advocated for the 12-country regional free trade agreement, arguing it was a vital national security priority to compete with a rising China.

But both Trump and campaign rival Hillary Clinton opposed it, arguing that it didn't sufficiently protect American workers. Trump, in particular, frequently railed against the TPP on the campaign trail and promised to seek one-on-one agreements with other countries instead.

"A great thing for the American worker we just did," he said in the Oval Office as he signed the memorandum.

Trump's decision on TPP codifies his shift away from his party's traditional stance in promotion free trade. More conventional Republicans, including Sen. John McCain, condemned the withdrawal from TPP. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan issued a statement praising Trump's other actions, but didn't explicitly mention the trade deal, which he supported.

“President Trump is wasting no time acting on his promises," Ryan said.

Trump announced Sunday that he will be meeting in the coming weeks with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto to discuss overhauling the North American Free Trade Agreement, a trade deal between the three countries signed by President Clinton.

Trump began his first weekday in the White House hosting a breakfast meeting with a dozen CEOs, including SpaceX's Elon Musk and Ford's Mark Fields to discuss stimulating the nation's manufacturing sector. Trump invited news cameras to cover his remarks on the subject for more than 10 minutes, as he pledged to support the American industrial base, another central campaign theme.

“It’s what the people wanted," Trump said in the Roosevelt Room. "It’s one the reasons I’m sitting here instead of someone else sitting here. I think it’s something I’m good at.”

Trump reiterated his promise to cut personal and corporate tax rates, "massively," saying, "We’re trying to get it down to anywhere from 15 to 20 percent.” Trump added that he also intends to cut government regulations. “We think we can cut regulations by 75 percent,” he said. “Maybe more.”

On both fronts, Trump was silent on the details, offering little guidance on how he intends to fill the budget shortfall the tax cuts would create or which regulations he intends to cut. On Friday, his chief of staff Reince Priebus ordered an immediate regulatory freeze to allow the new administration to study new orders.

Trump also warned the CEOs against outsourcing jobs or manufacturing, repeating a campaign pledge that they would be subject to a "border tax." “If that happens, we are going to be imposing a very major border tax on the products when it comes in.”

Trump informed the CEOs that he intends to follow up with them frequently.

“We’ll have these meetings every—whenever you need them," Trump told the businessmen. Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris told reporters that they had asked to report back to the president within 30 days on their suggestions for stimulating the economy and manufacturing. Fields, from Ford, said Trump's rhetoric on investment and taxes "encourages all of us as CEOs as we make decisions going forward."

On Monday, Trump also signed a memo instituting a federal hiring freeze—"except for the military," the president clarified—as well as another reinstating the so-called Mexico City policy, prohibiting non-governmental organizations that receive U.S. funding abroad from performing or promoting abortion services.

20 Photographs That Show the Essential Donald Trump

1981 Trump talks on a car phone in a limo in New York City. “It looks like he’s running for President in there,” Benson said. “There’s a bit of control there ... People walking about but he’s in the limo.”
1981 Trump talks on a car phone in a limo in New York City. “It looks like he’s running for President in there,” Benson said. “There’s a bit of control there ... People walking about but he’s in the limo.”Harry Benson
1981 Trump talks on a car phone in a limo in New York City. “It looks like he’s running for President in there,” Benson said. “There’s a bit of control there ... People walking about but he’s in the limo.”
1987 Trump and his first wife, Ivana, in their bedroom at Trump Tower in New York City. Benson chose the location—“it tells you a lot about the people”—and wanted them to dance. “She could dance,” he joked, “but he was a bit slow.”
1986 Trump celebrates after the completion of repairs to Wollman Rink in Central Park. He got the contract from the city, finishing early and well under budget.
1996 Trump and his second wife, Marla Maples, at Trump International Hotel & Tower in New York City.
1987 Trump gesticulates during a helicopter ride to Atlantic City. Benson, who prides himself on spontaneity and closeness, said he likes “to get people moving.”
1990 Trump and Michael Jackson, his guest, at the grand opening of the Trump Taj Mahal casino resort in Atlantic City.
Donald atop Trump Tower@Benson1987.JPG
2014 Trump and his wife, Melania, in their apartment at Trump Tower in New York City. “Donald was very proud of her,” Benson said.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump with his children, from left: Donald John “Don” Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump at Trump Tower in New York City on July 6, 2016.
Eric Trump in his office at Trump Tower in New York City on July 6, 2016.
Donald Trump Jr. in his office at Trump Tower in New York City on July 6, 2016.
Ivanka Trump in her office at Trump Tower in New York City on July 6, 2016.
2016 Trump and his wife, Melania, at the Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach Florida.
Donald Trump in a conference room, where he's storing his archive of press and memorabilia, on July 11, 2016.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump with his grandson Theodore James in Trump’s office in New York City on July 11, 2016.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump with his grandson Theodore James in Trump’s office in New York City on July 11, 2016.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in his office at Trump Tower in New York City on July 11, 2016.
1981 Trump talks on a car phone in a limo in New York City. “It looks like he’s running for President in there,” Benson
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Harry Benson
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