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Trumponomics Daily—Tuesday, January 24

Donald Trump in his first full day on the job put a headstone on the grave of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The move, accomplished by signing an executive order removing the United States as a signatory to the 12-nation pact, was no surprise. Trump made his opposition to the deal a central feature of his pitch to workers displaced in part by globalization. On Monday, he simply formalized what appears to be a break with decades of Republican thinking that’s favored freer trade as a boon to American business.

Still, business groups that have invested millions of dollars over the last two years trying to drum up support for the TPP were oddly quiet about its funeral. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers said nothing. The Business Roundtable, which coordinated the lobbying effort for the pact, issued a statement from Cummins CEO Tom Linebarger that didn’t mention the TPP by name and made it tough to tell whether anything had happened at all. “We are encouraged by the Administration’s commitment to pursue trade agreements,” it said in part, noting only that separate deals that the Europeans and Chinese are chasing in the region “will make it even more difficult for the United States to compete.”

The business lobby isn’t typically so coy about saying what it wants from Washington, so what’s going on? In part, their reticence reflects a fear of antagonizing a president who’s demonstrated he doesn’t take criticism well. It also stems from a hope, encouraged by the Trump team, that the new administration won’t see the issue in binary terms. That is, while the TPP’s multilateral approach is a no-go, there may be a way to patch together the market access it achieved through one-off agreements with the same countries. One well-placed Senate Republican source says to look for those talks to kick off with Japan, once Robert Lighthizer, Trump’s trade ambassador, is confirmed. And negotiations with the U.K. on a bilateral deal will likely begin later this week when British prime minister Theresa May pays Trump his first visit in office from a foreign head of state. “It will probably take more time. But you’re achieving the same result, which is greater interdependence among friendly governments that will benefit the American consumer and American businesses,” the Senate source says. It’s a consolation prize that business groups would be happy to claim.

Tory Newmyer
@torynewmyer
tory_newmyer@fortune.com

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