What an interesting time to be working in international trade!
We are writing to make sure you saw the Executive Orders President Trump issued over the past few days on international trade issues. All of the Executive Orders are available here.
The Presidential Executive Order Addressing Trade Agreement Violations and Abuses was signed on April 29, 2017. It directs the Secretary of Commerce and the United States Trade Representative to conduct “comprehensive performance reviews” of all international trade and investment agreements the United States is a party to, as well as trade relations with those WTO member countries with which the United States does not have a trade agreement, but does have a significant trade deficit in goods. The goal of these reviews is to (i) identify violations or abuses by our trading partners, (ii) trade or investment agreements that have not created new U.S. jobs, had favorable effects on our trade balance, increased U.S. exports, etc., and (iii) make recommendations to address the issues identified in (i) and (ii).
Based on statements President Trump has made to date, we expect that NAFTA as it relates to trade with Mexico, the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, the WTO Government Procurement Agreement and others to receive negative marks under the standards to be used in the performance reviews. What will be more interesting are the recommendations that are made to address those perceived shortcomings (e.g., revising rules of origin, withdrawing from agreements, etc.). The performance reviews must be submitted to the President by October 26, 2017.
The Presidential Executive Order on Establishment of Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy was also signed on April 29, 2017. It creates a new Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy (OTMP) within the White House. The stated mission of the OTMP “is to defend and serve American workers and domestic manufacturers while advising the President on policies to increase economic growth, decrease the trade deficit, and strengthen the United States manufacturing and defense industrial bases.”
These Executive Orders encapsulate much of the President’s trade policy, which is focused on (1) seeking to identify and remedy unfair trading practices, and (2) reducing the trade-in-goods deficits the United States has with other countries. Companies should be viewing these Executive Orders as a creating an opportunity to engage with the Administration to help shape the recommendations for addressing the problems that they perceive exist with trade.
We are assisting numerous clients navigate these issues. If you would like to discuss your specific situation and what you should be doing further, just let us know.