President TrumpDonald TrumpGrant Woods, longtime friend of McCain and former Arizona AG, dies at 67 Super PACs release ad campaign hitting Vance over past comments on Trump Glasgow summit raises stakes for Biden deal MORE said Tuesday night that the days of unfair trade are over and the United States will improve global agreements and make way for new deals.
Trump has promised to overhaul U.S. trade policy but so far through his first year has yet to form any new trading partnerships or remake established trade pacts such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
"America has also finally turned the page on decades of unfair trade deals that sacrificed our prosperity and shipped away our companies, our jobs and our nation's wealth,” he said during his State of the Union address on Capitol Hill.
“The era of economic surrender is over,” he said.
Trump has touted his pledge that "trading relationships be fair and and, very importantly, reciprocal” and that “we will work to fix bad trade deals and negotiate new ones.”
“They’ll be good ones but they’ll be fair,” he said during his remarks to Congress.
“And we will protect American workers and American intellectual property through strong enforcement of our trade rules.”
So far, though, the Trump administration has yet to bank any major victories on trade.
In his speech, Trump didn’t mention NAFTA, the deal with South Korea or the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which he withdrew from shortly after taking office.
He also failed to mention China, a frequent target of his ire about how the United States isn't getting a fair shake on the global stage.
The United States, Mexico and Canada completed on Monday their sixth round of negotiations for updating NAFTA, and the U.S. and South Korea are set to meet again on Wednesday to discuss amending their trade deal, which was first implemented in 2012.
When asked last week, Trump said he would consider rejoining the TPP “if we were able to make a substantially better deal."
The president also didn't list any other nations that he specifically hoped to work with on trade.
In the past he has talked about forming a trade agreement with the United Kingdom, but that country is entrenched in the process for leaving the European Union and a deal there is likely years away.
On other fronts, the Trump administration has used its duties regime through the Commerce Department to slap hefty tariffs on a wide range of imports, including solar panel technology, washing machines and softwood lumber from Canada.
Trump also is mulling whether to apply tariffs on foreign imports of steel and aluminum over concerns that they are a threat to national security.
Much of that action has caused concern on Capitol Hill, especially among lawmakers in his own party.
Ahead of the speech, 36 Senate Republicans called on Trump to preserve NAFTA, highlighting the benefits of the agreement and arguing that the pact will help the economy.
Trump has kept up the suspense on whether he will withdraw from NAFTA.
U.S. Chamber President and CEO Thomas Donohue expressed concern that the economy will suffer without focused trade policy.
"The economic gains we’re seeing from regulatory relief and tax reform could be erased if we do not stand up for and protect free, fair and reciprocal trade around the world," Donohue said.
"It’s clear that if the U.S. isn’t leading on trade, we’re falling behind," he said.
"We will continue to make the case to the administration that free trade agreements, such as NAFTA, are in our nation’s best interests and essential to our long-term growth and competitiveness."
Top trade leaders said on Monday that they made progress on NAFTA but tensions clearly remained among the three nations over how to update the 24-year-old agreement.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert LighthizerBob LighthizerBiden moves to undo Trump trade legacy with EU deal Whiskey, workers and friends caught in the trade dispute crossfire GOP senator warns quick vote on new NAFTA would be 'huge mistake' MORE said the discussions must move faster before the three trading partners meet for round seven in Mexico City in late February.
"His unwavering commitment to promoting America’s interests and insisting on fair and reciprocal trade will deliver even more prosperity to the American people," Lighthizer said in a statement following the address.
"As the president has said, America is no longer turning a blind eye to unfair foreign trade practices."