Larry Kudlow says TPP reconsideration more 'thought than policy'

Kudlow (above, centre) says the US would like to reach a separate free-trade deal with Japan.
Kudlow (above, centre) says the US would like to reach a separate free-trade deal with Japan.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow downplayed the possibility the US would enter into negotiations to rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, calling it more of a "thought than a policy" for now.

The US is "in the pre-preliminary stages of any discussions" on rejoining the Asia-Pacific trade deal, Kudlow told reporters Tuesday (April 17) during a briefing ahead of a meeting between President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Kudlow said the US would like to reach a separate free-trade deal with Japan.

He added that an exception for Japan on steel and aluminum tariffs that Trump recently announced would be "on the table" during the summit with Abe.

"It's a key point on the agenda," he said.

Kudlow added that US trade negotiations with China over grievances Trump has raised against Beijing will be "very separate" from consideration of rejoining TPP. China hasn't been part of the TPP negotiations while Japan is a member of the accord.

Trump last week told farm-state lawmakers and governors he had designated Kudlow and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to examine joining TPP, which the Obama administration had negotiated but the US never ratified.

Trump withdrew from the pact after he took office.

In a Twitter post after the meeting with lawmakers, Trump said the US "would only join TPP if the deal were substantially better than the deal offered to Pres. Obama. We already have BILATERAL deals with six of the eleven nations in TPP, and are working to make a deal with the biggest of those nations, Japan, who has hit us hard on trade for years!"

Senator Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican who participated in the meeting with Trump last Thursday in which the president spoke about rejoining the deal, said: "He multiple times reaffirmed the point that TPP might be easier to join now."