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Trump trade chief: Our trade policy is already working

May 04, 2017

A strong historic defense of American workers and domestic manufacturers aptly summarizes the first 100 days of the Trump Administration's trade policy.

[Peter Navarro] May 2nd, 2017 [CNN]

On his first working day in office, President Trump terminated one of the worst trade deals ever proposed: the Trans-Pacific Partnership. TPP would have further eroded the US manufacturing base, decimated our auto industry and surrendered yet more of American sovereignty to globalism.

Next, the President informed congressional leaders of his intent to renegotiate one of the worst trade deals the United States ever signed, NAFTA, and the congressional leadership has agreed to accelerate these negotiations once a US trade representative is confirmed.

After that, President Trump called into question our South Korean trade deal -- a pact that promised us 70,000 jobs, but instead cost us almost 100,000, even as our Korea trade deficit has more than doubled. 

The President also signed an executive order directing Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to conduct an omnibus study of the unfair trade practices our partners use to run up our more than $700 billion annual trade deficit in goods. Ross' analysis will provide all of the economic and political ammunition the administration will need to take bold and legally defensible actions -- should the studies conclude such actions are necessary.

The administration also launched investigations into the national security risks that may arise from a global glut of aluminum and steel capacity. And there are clear indications that a flood of imports is eliminating the jobs needed to maintain a pool of skilled workers essential for the continued development of advanced aluminum and steel manufacturing.

In addition, the administration broke important new ground by using a methodology known as "particular market situation," authorized by the Trade Preferences Extension Act of 2015, to combat the unfair dumping of products into our markets at below market cost. As a result, Korean oil tubing is now subject to duties as much as triple that of what would have been levied under the old methodology. Over time, the use of this new methodology will save thousands of American jobs by holding the cheaters at bay and creating the space for American production to flourish. 

Ross also slapped 20% tariffs on Canadian lumber. The Canadian dairy lobby, which is now sticking it to Wisconsin farmers, should take note that gaming the trade system by putting in new rules that unfairly disadvantage our own farmers will not be tolerated. 

Commerce is hardly the only agency getting tough on trade. The President directed Customs and Border Protection to implement enhanced bonding requirements to prevent the under-collection of duties; we have lost over $2 billion from lax enforcement.

A second direction gives CBP far broader powers to crack down on counterfeit and pirated goods and other copyright infringements that cost American companies billions more.

President Trump also signed an executive order that takes giant steps toward fulfilling his "Buy American, Hire American" pledge. He directed every agency head to maximize the use of "Made in America" in domestic procurement and minimize the number of waivers; put our trading partners on notice that we may no longer waive our "Buy American" rights in free trade agreements; and added sharp new teeth by allowing procurement officers to take into account any unfair advantage a bidder might gain by using dumped or subsidized foreign content like steel.

As for China, at an historic summit at Mar-a-Lago, the President and his trade team negotiated a far-ranging 100-day plan and follow-up strategy with Chinese counterparts to balance our trade -- and the President has established a solid bond with President Xi Jinping. By the end of those 100 days, we should know much about the future of US-China trade relations.

It has been a historic 100 days of action -- and we are just getting started.


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  • China has an industrial policy, we don’t. That is our fault, not theirs. Since Congress has devolved so much of its authority over trade policy to the Executive branch over the years, the actions Mr. Navarro discusses are all being taken by the Administration and all readily reversible by the next.

    If you want a stable, long-term, effort to revive manufacturing in the United States, it needs to be rooted politically in the Congress in the form of an industrial policy whose content is tied to the political fortunes of individual members of Congress.

    We can be happy that the Council of Economic Advisors has been replaced by the Council of Disgruntled Economic Advisors, but not for very long.