Trump set to sign executive orders to stop trade abuses

Trump set to sign executive orders to stop trade abuses
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President Trump on Friday is expected to sign two executive orders aimed at tackling long-standing concerns around trade enforcement as the White House launches plans to redefine U.S. policy.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and National Trade Council Director Peter Navarro said the Trump administration will produce a sweeping report on the cause of U.S. trade deficits as well as plans to improve trade enforcement and the collection of billions in import taxes as part of the effort to bolster U.S. manufacturing. 

Commerce and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative will take 90 days in a collaborative effort to produce a large-scale report that will identify contributing factors to the deficit with major U.S. trading partners and whether they are cheating to gain an edge.

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Trump has tied deficits to unfair trade practices and has vowed to renegotiate major trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement to give the U.S. a better advantage.

Ross told reporters on Thursday that the report will look at factors from trade barriers such as tariffs to currency misalignment and other issues that tip the trade balance into the favor of foreign countries.

“It doesn’t mean there is something wrong if there’s a trade deficit,” Ross said. “We may conclude that no action really needs to be taken."

He emphasized that the comprehensive report would be the first of its kind and would take an analytic deep dive into the issues the U.S. faces with its trading partners. 

The report will be "based on hard facts, not theories," Ross said.

"It will demonstrate the administration's intention not to hip-shoot, not to do anything casual, not to do anything abruptly, but to take a very measured and analytical approach," he said.

He ticked off a dozen or more countries — in the order with a combined goods and services trade deficit — starting with China and including Mexico, Germany and Canada that run a surplus with the United Sates. 

Ross said results could produce action against unfair trade practices before the 90-day period is up.

While Ross and Navarro both mentioned China and persistent problems with the dumping of foreign steel, both pushed backed against questions tying the executive actions to next week's arrival of Chinese President Xi Jinping, who will meet with Trump in Florida.

"Nothing we’re saying tonight is about China," Navarro said. 

Earlier on Thursday, Trump tweeted that “the meeting next week with China will be a very difficult one in that we can no longer have massive trade deficits.”

During the campaign Trump regularly used China as a punching bag on trade, and Navarro has made harsh comments about Beijing and its policies that they both say has caused millions of U.S. job losses.

The second executive order will give U.S. agencies, especially those working at the borders, greater power to collect import taxes.

Navarro said the inability of the U.S. to collect anti-dumping duties on a wide range of products is a "long festering problem." 

Since 2001, $2.8 billion in import taxes have gone uncollected, he said. 

Navarro said that China accounts for about one-third of more than 300 anti-dumping cases.

"For the first time, we're looking at what's been the source of the large and persistent trade deficit that has contributed to job losses," he said.