Business briefing

The daily business briefing: January 24, 2017

Trump scraps the TPP, Britain's high court rules Parliament must approve the Brexit process, and more

1

Trump ditches Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact

President Trump on Monday pulled the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a broad trade deal he has described as a "potential disaster." Although the move fulfilled a campaign vow, it was largely symbolic, as it was considered dead-on-arrival in the Republican-controlled Congress. Still, by canceling the agreement so quickly Trump "puts the world on notice that all of America's traditional economic and political alliances are now open to reassessment and renegotiation," said Eswar Prasad, trade policy professor at Cornell University.

2

U.K. high court rules Parliament must approve Brexit trigger

Britain's Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that the government must get Parliament's approval before starting official talks on leaving the European Union. The 8-3 ruling upholds a lower court ruling and creates a potentially significant obstacle for Prime Minister Theresa May, who has promised to get the two-year Brexit process going by triggering the legal mechanism for exiting the EU by late March. A majority of lawmakers, including many of May's colleagues in the Conservative Party, campaigned to remain in the trading bloc ahead of last year's referendum, although political analysts say it is unlikely they would reject voters' decision to leave.

3

Trump freezes hiring at most government agencies

President Trump on Monday signed an executive order imposing a federal hiring freeze, except for the military, national security, and public safety agencies. The move came on Trump's first full weekday in office, signaling that he is making it a priority to overhaul the federal workforce. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Trump was countering "the dramatic expansion of the federal workforce in recent years," although The Washington Post's Wonkblog noted that there were 2.8 million employees on the federal payroll in December, and there were 2.79 million when Barack Obama took office, down from a peak of 3.15 million during Ronald Reagan's presidency.

4

Judge blocks Aetna-Humana merger

A federal judge on Monday blocked the proposed $34 billion merger of health insurance giants Aetna and Humana on antitrust grounds. U.S. District Judge John Bates said the merger would threaten competition, writing that "federal regulation would likely be insufficient to prevent the merged firm from raising prices or reducing benefits" and there is "valuable head-to-head competition between Aetna and Humana which the merger would eliminate." Bates also said that Aetna's decision to pull out of all but four of the 15 states where it was providing ObamaCare individual insurance was at least partially a response to the Justice Department's lawsuit to block the merger. Aetna said it backed away because it was losing money on ObamaCare exchanges.

5

Trump promises business leaders drastic regulation cuts

President Trump on Monday promised business leaders that he would wipe out 75 percent of government regulations affecting their companies. Trump also promised to fast-track their plans for new factories, and cut taxes "massively," while threatening a "substantial border tax" on companies that move production abroad. Trump met with leaders of some of the nation's largest corporations early on his first full weekday in office. Mark Fields of Ford Motor Company, which has faced threats from Trump over production in Mexico, said Trump is "very, very serious about making sure that the United States economy is going to be strong ... That encourages all of us."

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