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Trump Talks Tough on Trade, but His Team Is Treading Lightly
Monday 5 June 2017

WASHINGTON — President Trump has called the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal a “rape” of the United States. He has scolded Germany for being “very bad” on trade because it runs a surplus. And in April he said that he was “psyched” to terminate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico, only to reverse course.

Despite Mr. Trump’s incendiary talk, his top trade advisers are taking a more cautious approach to dealing with America’s trading partners, striking a more moderate tone than the president but still laying the groundwork for the changes he has promised.

Signs of greater moderation were on display this week when Wilbur Ross, the secretary of commerce, suggested that the administration would actually try to build off some aspects of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, or T.P.P., that Mr. Trump abandoned in January as Nafta renegotiations begin this summer.

Early moves by Robert Lighthizer, the newly installed United States trade representative, have also been surprisingly conventional.

The language in a letter that Mr. Lighthizer sent to Congress last month giving official notice that the administration planned to renegotiate Nafta strongly echoed the wording used by the Obama administration when it laid out its negotiating objectives for the multicountry T.P.P. two years ago.

Both administrations, for example, called for modernizing the trade agreements for a digital age, addressing competition with state-owned enterprises and developing provisions to protect intellectual property rights.

To trade experts, the similar goals indicated that the problems Mr. Trump and some in his administration have expressed about T.P.P. involved the politics of the pact more than its substance.

Click here to read the full article written by Alan Rappeport and published in The New York Times on June 1, 2017.