President Trump’s first actions as President of the United States were largely consistent with promises made during the presidential compaign. Still, the measures were largely symbolic and came via a trio of presidential memorandums. Presidential memorandums are similar to Executive Orders and are intended to govern the behavior of officials and agencies under the authority of the President.
One memoranda withdrew the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which was championed by the Obama administration but had not yet been ratified by Congress. Trump has consistently opposed such free-trade agreements as bad for workers in the United States who are forced into competition with lower wage workers around the world. Even though it did not come as a surprise, the decision could herald the end of decades of largely bi-partisan trade policy that saw free trade as a positive for the United States as well as the world. Those supporting the TPP in particular have argued that the nations left at the altar by the United States are likely to consider proposals from China.
The withdrawal is likely to have little immediate impact since it had never been implemented. A separate call from Trump to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) on the other hand could have enormous repercussions depending upon the details of the negotiations.
The second memoranda from the new administration froze hiring by the Federal Government excepting military personnel or other positions deemed vital to national security. Sean Spicer, the Press Secretary of the incoming administration, said that the freeze would control the size of the Federal Government until the President can formulate a more comprehensive plan for shrinking the number of public employees and expenditures of public funds.
Several organizations, most notably public sector unions, criticized the move. Although the criticism is expected, the unions pointed out that often times well-intentioned reductions in employees only result in the hiring of temporary and contract workers at higher wages if the total volume of work needing accomplished is not reduced.
The final memoranda relates to a policy originally implemented by Ronald Reagan in 1984 and that withholds USAID funds from NGO’s that perform abortion related services. It is generally referred to as the “Mexico City Policy”, but in reality has nothing to do with Mexico City besides the fact that the policy was first enunciated in Mexico City at a United Nations Convention. The order has been rescinded by every Democratic administration and reinstated by every Republican administration since Reagan.