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Trump looking to re-enter TPP, says Sens. Pat Roberts, Ben Sasse

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with governors and members of Congress at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 12, 2018.

Kevin Lamarque / REUTERS

Last Updated Apr 13, 2018 1:47 AM EDT

President Trump is considering a re-entry into the Trans-Pacific Partnership, according to lawmakers at a White House meeting on trade today. The reversal comes in the wake of Mr. Trump made the United States' exit from the trade pact one of the first items on his to-do list after taking office. 

"The one thing that he did say that I was very impressed with, he has assigned Larry Kudlow and Bob Lighthizer the task to see if we couldn't take another look at TPP and thats certainly would be good news all throughout farm country," said Sen. Pat Roberts, of Kansas, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry following the trade discussions at the White House. 

Roberts said Kudlow and Lighthizer would be working with the Agriculture Committee, calling the move "certainly good news."

Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Nebraska, said in a statement after the meeting, "The best thing the United States can do to push back against Chinese cheating now is to lead the other eleven Pacific nations that believe in free trade and the rule of law."

He added, "It is good news that today the President directed Larry Kudlow and Ambassador Lighthizer to negotiate U.S. entry into TPP."

The president tweeted about the situation late Thursday night:

Japan cautiously welcomed the word about Mr. Trump's new stance. Government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said Friday morning in Tokyo that Japan welcomed the request if it means Mr. Trump recognizes the significance of the multi-nation trade pact. He added, though, that it would be difficult to renegotiate only parts of it, describing the agreement as delicate.

Sasse told reporters at the White House that during the meeting, Mr. Trump had repeatedly "reaffirmed the point that TPP might be easier for us to join now once the TPP 11 is aligned and we might be 12th party to those negotiations as opposed to the long process that it took to get to TPP."

He said that at one point in the discussion, the president looked at Kudlow and said, "Go get it done."

The move would be a reversal for Mr. Trump, who signed an executive order in January 2017 shortly after taking office to signify the U.S. exit from the 12-country Asia Pacific free trade deal. He said at the time that he would pursue individual deals with the other countries.

"We have officially terminated TPP," declared Mr. Trump at the order signing. "We are going to put a lot of people back to work."

But Mr. Trump has also hinted at re-entering the deal if he can secure a "substantially better deal" for the U.S.

In January, Mr. Trump told CNBC in an interview in Davos, Switzerland that he "would do TPP, if we made a much better deal than we had." 

"We had a horrible deal," he said. "I always say this I would do TPP if we were able to make a substantially better deal — the deal was terrible. The way the deal was structured was terrible If we did a substantially better deal, I would be open to TPP."

CBS News' Margaret Brennan, Mark Knoller and Emily Tillett contributed to this report.