Donald Trump targets nations in trade deficit

President Donald Trump on Friday made the next move in his bid to reshape U.S. trade policy, signing two executive orders aimed at combating foreign trade abuses that contribute to the US's half-trillion-dollar trade deficit.

According to him, his first executive order ensures that the government collects all duties imposed on foreign importers and those who break the rules would face severe consequences.

President Trump on Friday announced two new executive orders aimed at tackling long-standing concerns around trade enforcement, but left the room before actually signing the orders during the announcement.

The orders also will focus on stricter enforcement of the United States anti-dumping laws and countervailing duties, or the penalties imposed on foreign governments who violate trade rules, as well as pirated and counterfeited intellectual property owned by USA companies. While China is the largest source of the U.S.'s trade deficit, Ross and Peter Navarro, director of the National Trade Council, insisted Thursday that the directives were not aimed at China in particular.

Once completed, the findings of the report will serve as the foundation that will guide the Trump administration's future trade policy.

At a White House briefing for reporters previewing Friday's actions that began barely 15 minutes after Trump's tweets on China, Navarro dismissed questions about whether the orders should be read as a warning to the nation.

The announcement, which would come just days ahead of Trump's first meeting with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, is widely seen as targeting China.

China tops the list, with a $347 billion surplus past year, followed by Japan, with a $69 billion surplus, Germany at $65 billion, Mexico at $63 billion, Ireland at $36 billion and Vietnam at $32 billion. Also this week, he released a draft outline of plans to renegotiate the Bill Clinton-era North American Free Trade Agreement - and promised the results would be substantial.

The trade deficit with India is for goods for 2016, and it's been rising every year - going up from $14 billion in 2011.

Any US trade enforcement measures should comply with generally accepted worldwide trade rules and differences between the two countries should be handled properly, a spokesperson for China's Ministry of Commerce said in a speech.

"The meeting next week with China will be a very hard one in that we can no longer have massive trade deficits and job losses", Trump tweeted.

Within 90 days, the report will go back to the Oval Office detailing specific causes for the deficit, country by country, product by product.

During the campaign, Trump criticized China's trade policies and the way Washington makes trade deals. "This is a story about trade abuses, this is a story about undercollection of duties, this is a story about 40 countries that basically subsidize their products unfairly and send them into our country or dump their products".

The study of trade abuses appeared aimed at justifying unilateral retaliatory trade actions by the United States, said Matt Gold, a former deputy assistant US trade representative who is now an adjunct trade law professor at Fordham University in NY.

Gabriel said the U.S. seemed prepared to give U.S. companies "unfair competitive advantage" over European producers, even though this violated worldwide trade legislation. Ross also named India down the line with a trade deficit of United States dollars 24 billion.

"Jobs and wealth have been stripped from our country", he said.

Meanwhile China yesterday called on the United States to respect worldwide trade rules and improve cooperation and dialogue in reaction to two new orders by Mr. Trump.

The second order addresses Anti Dumping and Countervailing.

The order also directs the Department of Homeland Security to better combat violations of USA trade and customs laws and enable enhanced seizure of counterfeit and pirated goods.

A statement from the White House said Trump and Xi will discuss global, regional, and bilateral issues of mutual concern. "If a foreign company, often due to its being partly or entirely government-run or subsidised, is able to flood American markets with an artificially cheap steel, for example, they price American companies out of the system", Spicer said.

It will allow the Trump administration take a "measured and analytical approach" and not do anything too casually or abruptly, he said.

In January, Trump withdrew the USA from the massive Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement and has stepped up attacks on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), spurring concern that his next target could be the pact with Korea that he denounced as a job-killing deal during the campaign.

  • Zachary Reyes