March 21, 2018 / 2:59 PM / 3 months ago

U.S. will take new look at TPP after other trade priorities: Mnuchin

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - The United States will consider re-entry to the Trans Pacific Partnership once Washington accomplishes its goals on other trading relationships, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said while on an official visit to Chile on Wednesday.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin speaks to the media next to Chile's Finance Minister Felipe Larrain (not in the picture), during a meeting at La Moneda Presidential Palace in Santiago, Chile March 21, 2018. REUTERS/ Rodrigo Garrido

Trans Pacific Partnership is aimed at cutting trade barriers in some of the fastest-growing economies of the Asia-Pacific region. The original 12-member deal was thrown into limbo early last year when President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from it, citing concerns about protecting U.S. jobs.

“Our focus at the moment, is obviously we’re working on renegotiation of NAFTA, we’re very focused on our trading relationship with China, which is way too much in one direction. Our markets are open to them, their markets are not open to us, on the same basis,” Mnuchin said at a news conference.

He was in Chile following a two-day meeting of officials from the world’s 20 biggest economies in neighboring Argentina on Monday and Tuesday.

“But as we accomplish our goals on these other trading relationships, this (TPP) is definitely something that we will consider and Chile will be a big partner of ours in that at the right time,” Mnuchin said.

Chile Finance Minister Felipe Larrain said the South American nation would welcome U.S. participation in the partnership.

“We would very much like to have the United States back in the TPP,” he said.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin walks next to Chile's Finance Minister Felipe Larrain after a meeting at La Moneda Presidential Palace in Santiago, Chile March 21, 2018. REUTERS/Rodrigo Garrido

Addressing U.S. sanctions against Venezuela, Mnuchin said they are directed not at the population but at individuals who are taking resources from the Venezuelan people.

Trump on Monday signed an executive order barring any U.S.-based financial transactions involving Venezuela’s new petro cryptocurrency, as U.S. officials warned that it was a “scam” by President Nicolas Maduro’s government to further undermine democracy in the OPEC country.

Mnuchin said the upcoming presidential election in Venezuela on May 20 would not likely change that strategy.

“Under President Trump the Treasury has been very aggressive in using its sanction powers,” Mnuchin said.

Mnuchin said it was important that other countries and the European Union join in sanctioning Venezuela.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin (2nd R) next to Chile's President Sebastian Pinera (C), Chile's Finance Minister Felipe Larrain (2nd L), U.S. Under Secretary for International Affairs David Malpass (L) and U.S. Ambassador to Chile Carol Perez (R) pose for the media during a meeting at La Moneda Presidential Palace in Santiago, Chile March 21, 2018. REUTERS/Rodrigo Garrido

“We’re having discussions with the EU about them putting sanctions, and matching our sanctions, so that they come along and that we have a united front,” Mnuchin said.

Critics accuse Maduro of turning Venezuela into a dictatorship. His government says the sanctions break international law.

Reporting by David Lawder and Dave Sherwood, writing by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by David Gregorio

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