WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump has fulfilled a campaign pledge by signing an executive order to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
The 12-nation trade deal was a linchpin of former President Barack Obama’s Asia policy.
“Great thing for the American worker what we just did,” said Trump as he dumped the pact with a stroke of a pen.
He also cut funding for international groups that provide abortions, and froze hiring of some federal workers.
Trump’s executive order on TPP was largely symbolic since the deal has not been ratified by a divided US Congress.
The Trump administration’s first weekday began with a flurry of executive orders, which allow the president to bypass Congress by issuing legally binding directions, mostly of limited scope, to federal agencies.
Trump also signed an order blocking foreign aid or federal funding for any nongovernmental organisation that provides abortions abroad.
The so-called Mexico City policy was first established by Republican President Ronald Reagan in 1984.
It is typically rescinded by incoming Democratic presidents, including Barack Obama in 2009, and reinstated by Republican presidents.
Trump also signed an executive action placing a hiring freeze on non-military federal workers.
Also on Monday morning, the new president pledged to “massively” cut regulations and taxes on companies, but impose “a very major border tax” if they move factories outside the US.
“All you have to do is stay,” he told executives from 12 companies including Lockheed Martin, Under Armour, Whirlpool, Tesla and Johnson & Johnson.
After meeting business leaders at the White House, Trump pledged to lower corporate taxes to 15 per cent or 20 per cent, from the current 35 per cent, and slash regulations by up to 75 per cent if they keep jobs in the US.
“A company that wants to fire all of its people in the United States, and build some factory someplace else, and then thinks that that product is going to just flow across the border into the United States – that’s not going to happen,” he said.
Dow Chemical chief executive Andrew Liveris told reporters afterwards he would take the president at his word.
“He’s not going to do anything to harm competitiveness,” said Liveris. “He’s going to actually make us all more competitive.”
Trump – whose protectionist rhetoric sent the US dollar falling – is due to meet labour leaders in the afternoon.
The US Senate will meanwhile vote on his nomination of Mike Pompeo to be CIA director.
Rex Tillerson’s nomination as secretary of state was effectively guaranteed on Monday as Senator Marco Rubio dropped his objections.
Meanwhile, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said it was “unquestionable” that Trump’s inauguration “was the most watched” ever.
Although Ronald Reagan’s was top in terms of television figures, attracting 41.8 million viewers, Spicer pointed out that the 30.6 million who tuned in to see Trump take the oath of office did not include the millions who watched the ceremony online.
His remarks followed Trump’s stinging attack at the weekend on media reporting of attendance figures and the weather at his inauguration.