Published: Wed, April 12, 2017
Economy | By Melissa Porter

Trump talks up orders on trade, but neglects to sign them

WTO head Roberto Azevedo said there was a need for clarity on United States trade policy, to see how public declarations translate into policy.

US President Donald Trump Friday walked out of an executive order signing ceremony without placing his signature on the orders after being questioned over his former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and Russian Federation.

One order directs the Commerce Department and the U.S. Trade Representative to examine trade abuses that contribute to the country's trade deficit, White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters. The second calls for developing a strategy for customs agents to use current anti-dumping laws to crack down more effectively on foreign manufacturers who flood the market with underpriced products to undermine US companies.

White House National Trade Council Director Peter Navarro said some $2.8 billion in such duties went uncollected between 2001 and the end of 2016 from companies in some 40 countries. Last year, the nation collected $1.5 billion in the penalties, he said. The action directs the Department of Homeland Security to hold accountable countries or individuals who violate U.S. trade laws. "We're going to defend our industry and create a level playing field for the American worker, finally", the U.S. president said.

"Undoubtedly with some of the countries we will conclude that there is no real action that should be taken", Ross emphasized.

Furthermore, the President said the "well-being of America and the American worker is my north star".

"China does not deliberately seek a trade surplus".

"It's been very bad, what's happening to our country, in terms of our companies and in terms of our jobs", Trump said during a press conference.

On the other hand, Secretary Ross told the American people that the two executive orders mark the beginning of a new chapter of the country's trade relationship with its partners overseas.

Ross echoed that criticism in an interview Friday with Bloomberg Television.

The President said he promised actions and solutions to the American people and they are now seeing solutions taking place all over the country. "There's an inherent clash between those two even though China uses a tremendous amount of free-trade rhetoric".

The U.S. has its biggest trade deficits with China, $347 billion; Japan $69 billion; Germany, $65 billion, and Mexico, $63 billion. But China also is among the top three export markets for 33 states. China, the largest source of the US's trade deficit, has repeatedly run afoul of the US' anti-dumping laws, and Trump has repeatedly accused the country of hurting the USA economy through unfair trading practices. "Nothing we're saying tonight is about China", Navarro added. Let's not make this a China story. "This is about trade abuses".

"This will represent the first systematic analysis of what are the causes, country by country, and product by product", Mr. Ross said.

Another goal is to step up the seizure of counterfeit and pirated goods, Navarro said.

According to a White House official, Trump signed the measures later. The United States has long complained that WTO rules allow exports to be exempt from value-added taxes, but do not allow export exemptions from the US corporate income tax.

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