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Trump Issues Executive Orders Freezing Federal Hiring, Targeting Trade

President Donald Trump announced a series of executive actions Monday, one of which removed the United States from an international trade pact that became a flashpoint during the campaign. He also implemented a federal employee hiring freeze, and reinstated a GOP-backed policy that effectively bars U.S. foreign aid from funding or promoting abortion.
Image:  Trump signs an executive order in the Oval Office
President Donald Trump signs an executive order in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., January 23, 2017.Saul Loeb / AFP - Getty Images

President Donald Trump announced a series of executive actions Monday focused on trade and the federal workforce, making good on a pair of his core campaign promises.

The actions, signed Monday at the White House, implement a federal employee hiring freeze, formally withdraw the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and reinstate a GOP-backed policy regarding foreign aid and abortion funding.

A memorandum outlining the federal hiring freeze states that "no vacant positions existing at noon on January 22, 2017, may be filled and no new positions may be created, except in limited circumstances."

Trump noted that his long-promised action to shrink the federal government would not apply to the American military.

Related: Why Trump Killed TPP — And Why It Matters To You

Trump's action to nix the TPP trade deal with 11 Pacific Rim countries also fulfilled one of his most consistent campaign promises from the 2016 election. The trade agreement, backed by the Obama administration as part of a pivot toward strengthening economic ties with Asian nations, earned criticism from both Trump and his Democratic foe, Hillary Clinton, during their protracted general election fight.

But pro-business groups and many of Trump's Republican allies have voiced support for the deal. Ultimately, the deal was never ratified by Congress and was unlikely to pass.

In a statement, Republican Sen. John McCain called Trump's move "a serious mistake that will have lasting consequences for America’s economy and our strategic position in the Asia-Pacific region."

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Clinton's opponent in the Democratic presidential primaries, applauded the move. The lawmaker has long been critical of international trade deals he views as harmful to American workers.

“I am glad the Trans-Pacific Partnership is dead and gone. For the last 30 years, we have had a series of trade deals — including the North American Free Trade Agreement, permanent normal trade relations with China and others — which have cost us millions of decent-paying jobs and caused a ‘race to the bottom’ which has lowered wages for American workers, " Sanders said in a statement. "If President Trump is serious about a new policy to help American workers then I would be delighted to work with him."

President Donald Trump signs an executive order in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., January 23, 2017.Saul Loeb / AFP - Getty Images

Trump also acted Monday to reinstate the so-named “Mexico City policy” first instituted by Ronald Reagan. That directive essentially barred recipients of U.S. foreign aid from promoting abortion as a method of family planning. In the early days of his presidency, Bill Clinton reversed the Reagan-backed policy; President George W. Bush reinstated it shortly after his election; and President Barack Obama revoked it – each in their first few days as president.

Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire plans to introduce legislation this week in the Senate that would permanently repeal the Mexico City policy.

Trump's team has also indicated that he will take executive action soon to jump start his promised renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

NAFTA — a trade agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico that was first enacted in 1994 — was one of Trump’s top targets during his presidential campaign.

Earlier on Monday, Trump suggested that companies that move outside of the United States should expect to face "a substantial border tax."

"We want to start making our products again," he said. "We don’t want to bring them in, we want to make them here and that doesn’t mean we don’t trade, because we do trade, but we want to make our products here."

On Friday, Trump announced his first executive order, which pledged to "minimize the economic burden" of Obamacare pending the law’s eventual repeal.