World & Nation

What Trump’s moves on trade, abortion and federal hiring really do — and don’t do

President Trump shows the executive order withdrawing the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership after signing it in the Oval Office.
(Ron Sachs / Pool/Getty Images)

On his first full workday in the White House, President Trump took action highlighting the range of his campaign priorities: trade, abortion and tackling government bureaucracy.

Trump’s directives follow another he issued just hours after taking the oath of office Friday that marked a first step in the GOP’s effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

None of Monday’s additional actions were unexpected, but each requires some explaining. Here’s what you need to know.

1. Withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership

The trade pact among a dozen Pacific Rim nations was one of the most significant legislative undertakings of former President Obama’s second term. Trump spoiled those efforts quickly.


What the order does: Trump simply made clear that he would not even consider putting the agreement to a vote in Congress. The U.S. will withdraw as a signatory to the deal, and permanently withdraw from any further negotiations.

The member nations closed the agreement in 2015. But with most Democrats against it and pro-trade Republicans hesitant to support it in an election year, Obama decided to hold off on asking Congress to ratify the agreement until GOP leaders were confident it would pass. That moment never came.

What it does not do: The directive does not mean Trump is taking the U.S. out of trade altogether. Indeed, Trump officials say he will consider seeking discrete trade agreements with many of the nations who were party to TPP. The U.S. has bilateral agreements with many already.

Trump’s move was “a strong signal that the Trump administration wants free and fair trade throughout the world,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters.


“This executive action ushers in a new era of U.S. trade policy in which the Trump administration will pursue bilateral trade opportunities with allies around the globe,” he said.

Still, there are potential national security implications to the withdrawal from TPP. The Obama administration had sold some lawmakers on supporting it with the argument that it was essential to curbing growing Chinese influence in the region.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a supporter of the deal, said the decision would “have lasting consequences for America’s economy and our strategic position in the Asia-Pacific region…. It will create an opening for China to rewrite the economic rules of the road at the expense of American workers.”

2. Reinstating a ban on funding some abortion services

What the order does: Trump’s order reimposes a ban, initiated in 1984 by then-President Reagan, on government support for international aid groups that provide or counsel women on abortion services.

To receive any U.S. aid, nongovernmental organizations will now have to certify that they will not “perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning,” even if that work is supported by funding from sources other than the U.S. government.

This ban, often called the global gag rule, was lifted by Obama shortly after he took office in 2009 in response to widespread criticism of the restriction by global health advocates who say it imperils women’s health by cutting access to family planning services and forcing women to seek unsafe abortions.

What it does not do: The order does not affect family planning or abortion policy in the U.S..

Congress already restricts federal funding for abortion, but groups that perform abortions, such as Planned Parenthood, can receive government funding for other healthcare services. Planned Parenthood, for example, provides preventive health services such as cancer screenings to many poor women around the country. These are often reimbursed through the government Medicaid program.  


Congressional Republicans are now trying to cut all federal funding for Planned Parenthood, even for non-abortion services.

3. Ordering a government-wide hiring freeze

What the order does: The Trump administration directed the leaders of all federal agencies and departments to freeze hiring of new personnel. Any vacancies in the federal workforce as of noon on Sunday must remain unfilled, and no new positions may be created “except in limited circumstances,” the order stated. 

The decision is meant to “counter the dramatic expansion” of the federal workforce since the Clinton administration — from 1.8 million civilian employees to 2.1 million. The costs of health and retirement benefits “are unsustainable,” the administration said. 

“There’s been frankly, to some degree, a lack of respect for taxpayer dollars in this town for a long time,” Spicer told reporters Monday. 

What the order does not do: The military is exempt from the freeze. Each department or agency can also exempt “any positions that it deems necessary to meet national security or public safety responsibilities.”,

Twitter: @mikememoli, @noamlevey



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