If you think the messages from the White House are mixed, you’d be dead right. Against the background of the Trump tweets, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer delivered President Trump’s trade policy agenda & annual report to Congress last Wednesday, outlining how the administration “is promoting free, fair & reciprocal trade and strongly enforcing US trade laws.
“President Trump is keeping his promises to the American people on trade, from withdrawing the US from the flawed Trans-Pacific Partnership, to renegotiating NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement), to strongly enforcing US trade laws.
“We are already seeing the results of President Trump’s agenda pay off for American workers, farmers, ranchers & businesses.”
Mr Lighthizer said the president’s trade policy agenda rested on 5 major pillars:
- Trade policy that supports national security policy
- Strengthening the American economy
- Negotiating trade deals that work for all Americans
- Enforcing & defending US trade laws, and
- Strengthening the multilateral trading system.
Donald Trump certainly has a different way of doing things, but central US policy aims haven’t changed under his leadership.
At the top of the trade policy is this: “Consistent with the national security strategy President Trump announced in December 2017, the president’s trade policy agenda recognises that economic prosperity at home is necessary for American power & influence abroad.”
Below, you can check out what President Trump is saying (in more than a tweet), and further down the page you can check his administration’s views on Chinese & Russian trade issues, illustrating why he’s taken the course he’s followed.
The view expressed in the trade policy agenda:
“Free, fair & reciprocal trade relations are a key component of the president’s strategy to promote American prosperity. Therefore, the Trump administration will work aggressively to address trade imbalances, promote fair & reciprocal trade relationships, enforce US rights under existing trade agreements, and work with like-minded countries to defend our common prosperity & security against economic aggression.
“Countries that are committed to market-based outcomes and that are willing to provide the US with reciprocal opportunities in their home markets will find a true friend & ally in the Trump administration.
“Countries that refuse to give us reciprocal treatment or who engage in other unfair trading practices will find that we know how to defend our interests.”
Strengthening the American economy
“The president’s trade agenda will build on the economic momentum provided by the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act and the administration’s efforts to reduce regulatory burdens. The Council of Economic Advisors reported in February that the US economy experienced strong & significant acceleration during President Trump’s first year in office.
“Growth in real gdp exceeded expectations, the unemployment rate fell to its lowest level in 17 years, and the economy added 2.2 million jobs. The Trump administration’s focus on fair & reciprocal trade, combined with the president’s tax cuts & regulatory relief, will lead to more efficient markets and make it easier for American workers & companies to succeed.”
Negotiating trade deals that work for all Americans
“The Trump administration will seek an extension of trade promotion authority until 2021 and aggressively use that authority to negotiate or revise trade agreements so they are fair, balanced and support American prosperity. However, the president’s trade policy agenda warns that the US Senate’s failure to confirm President Trump’s nominees to serve as deputy US trade representatives & chief agricultural negotiator ‘could significantly undermine’ efforts to move forward with trade negotiations.
“As part of its trade agenda for 2018, the Trump administration will continue renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to modernise & rebalance the 24-year-old trade pact, as well as negotiations to amend the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) in order to seek fairer, more reciprocal trade.
“The Trump administration intends to reach other agreements designed to promote fair, balanced trade and support American prosperity.
“As part of this effort, the US & the UK established a trade & investment working group in July 2017 to lay the groundwork for commercial continuity and prepare for a potential future trade agreement once the UK leaves the European Union. The administration will continue preparing for other potential bilateral agreements, including in the Indo-Pacific & African regions.”
Enforcing & defending US trade laws
“The Trump administration will continue to use all tools available under US law to combat unfair trade.
“In January 2018, President Trump exercised his authority under section 201 of the Trade Act of 1974 to provide safeguard relief to US manufacturers injured by imports of washing machines & solar panels. This was the first time section 201 had been used to impose tariffs in 16 years.
“The Trump administration in 2017 launched a self-initiated section 301 investigation with an in-depth probe into Chinese practices related to forced technology transfer, unfair licensing & intellectual property (IP) policies & practices. The Trump administration has successfully litigated a number of World Trade Organisation (WTO) disputes, helping force countries to abandon unfair practices and preserving the US right to enact fair laws.”
Strengthening the multilateral trading system
“The administration will work with all WTO members who share the US goal of using the organisation to create rules that will lead to more efficient markets, more trade & greater wealth for our citizens. However, the US is also concerned that the WTO is not operating as the contracting parties envisioned and, as a result, is undermining America’s ability to act in its national interest. The Trump administration will work with other like-minded countries to address these long-standing concerns.”
The allegations against China & Russia
The US Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer, issued annual reports on 19 January containing the American view on China & Russia’s compliance with WTO rules since they joined the organisation in 2001 (China) & 2012 (Russia):
“China & Russia have failed to embrace the market-oriented economic policies championed by the World Trade Organisation and are not living up to certain key commitments they made when they joined the WTO.
“The US is committed to working with all WTO members who share our goal of using the WTO to create & enforce rules that lead to more efficient markets, reciprocal benefits & greater wealth for our citizens.
“However, as these 2 reports show, the global trading system is threatened by major economies who do not intend to open their markets to trade and participate fairly. This practice is incompatible with the market-based approach expressly envisioned by WTO members and contrary to the fundamental principles of the WTO.”
First, the Trump view on China
Selected highlights of the 2017 annual report on China’s WTO compliance:
“Today, almost 2 decades after it pledged to support the multilateral trading system of the WTO, the Chinese Government pursues a wide array of continually evolving interventionist policies & practices aimed at limiting market access for imported goods & services and foreign manufacturers & service suppliers.”
“China’s regulatory authorities do not allow US companies to make their own decisions about technology transfer and the assignment or licensing of intellectual property rights. Instead, they continue to require or pressure foreign companies to transfer technology as a condition for securing investment or other approvals.
“China is determined to maintain the state’s leading role in the economy and to continue to pursue industrial policies that promote, guide & support domestic industries while simultaneously & actively seeking to impede, disadvantage & harm their foreign counterparts, even though this approach is incompatible with the market-based approach expressly envisioned by WTO members and contrary to the fundamental principles running throughout the many WTO agreements.
“Many of the policy tools being used by the Chinese Government…are largely unprecedented, as other WTO members do not use them, and include a wide array of state intervention & support designed to promote the development of Chinese industry in large part by restricting, taking advantage of, discriminating against or otherwise creating disadvantages for foreign enterprises & their technologies, products & services.”
And the Trump view on Russia
Selected highlights of the 2017 annual report on Russia’s WTO compliance:
“So far, Russia’s actions strongly indicate that it has no intention of complying with many of the promises it made to the US & other WTO members. This trend is very troubling.
“Russia has done little in 2017 to demonstrate a commitment to the principles of the WTO or to many of the specific commitments that it made in the negotiations leading to Russia’s membership in the WTO.
“The agricultural sector continues to be one of the most challenging sectors for US exporters. In addition to the import ban on nearly all agricultural goods from the US & other WTO members, Russia continues to erect barriers to US agricultural exports.
“In 2017, notwithstanding a few tariff reductions, Russia increasingly appeared to turn away from the principles of the WTO, instead turning inward through the adoption of local content policies & practices. Russia continued to rely on arbitrary behind-the-border measures & other discriminatory practices to exclude US exports.”
US Trade Representative, 28 February 2018: Trump administration sends annual trade agenda report to Congress
US Trade Representative, 22 January 2018: President Trump approves relief for US washing machine & solar cell manufacturers
US Trade Representative, 19 January 2018: USTR releases annual reports on China’s & Russia’s WTO compliance
Attribution: White House.