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Trump: I would reconsider a massive Pacific trade deal if it were 'substantially better'

  • President Trump tells CNBC he would reconsider the Trans-Pacific Partnership if the United States got a "substantially better deal."
  • Trump is almost certainly too late to revise the trade deal, since the countries that were abandoned by the United States agreed this week to move forward without the U.S.

President Donald Trump told CNBC on Thursday that he would reconsider the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal if the United States could strike a "substantially better" agreement. But it's almost certainly too late for the U.S. to negotiate a new deal.

"I would do TPP if we were able to make a substantially better deal. The deal was terrible, the way it was structured was terrible. If we did a substantially better deal, I would be open to TPP," he said in an exclusive interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

TPP was a 12-nation agreement among the United States and Pacific rim countries that was designed in part to counter China's rising dominance of the region. But Trump withdrew from the deal last year, saying it would encourage companies to ship jobs to lower-wage countries.

Trump is probably too late to think about re-shaping the TPP, however. This week, the last of the remaining 11 countries that the U.S. abandoned agreed to move ahead without the United States. Japan and Australia are now the effective leaders of the revised deal, which is likely to be signed in March.

President Donald Trump gestures as he arrives on day three of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018.
Jason Alden | Bloomberg | Getty Images
President Donald Trump gestures as he arrives on day three of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018.

As a candidate, Trump repeatedly blasted the agreement, which was championed by President Barack Obama and had little chance of securing congressional approval even before Trump took office.

Trump's populist campaign partly blamed free-trade agreements for manufacturing job losses and companies relocating outside the United States. He has also preached the benefits of bilateral trade deals rather than multilateral agreements.

"I like bilateral, because if you have a problem, you terminate. ... You don't have that same option" with multilateral deals, he said Thursday.

Trump also reiterated that he may terminate the North American Free Trade Agreement, another target of his ire, if the U.S. cannot reach what he deems a better deal during ongoing negotiations.

"I think we have a good chance, but we'll see what happens," he said of whether the U.S. would strike an agreement to stay in the three-nation deal with Canada and Mexico.

— Reporting by CNBC's Joe Kernen. CNBC's Ted Kemp contributed to this report.

— CNBC's full interview of President Trump will air on "Squawk Box" at 6 a.m. ET Friday.

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