Under pressure to make good on campaign promises as his first 100 days in office drew to a close, President Donald Trump considered a number of new trade-related actions last week, highlighting the importance of stakeholder engagement with his Administration on trade matters.
On Wednesday, April 26, reports emerged that President Trump was seriously considering withdrawing the US from NAFTA. The action reportedly came as a surprise to many stakeholders, who were expecting trade developments ahead of President Trump 100th day in office but not NAFTA withdrawal. President Trump ultimately decided to shelve the draft executive action following conversations with the leaders of Mexico and Canada, calls from Members of Congress, and outreach by private stakeholders, as well as meetings with his most senior advisors.
In remarks the following day, President Trump confirmed that he had been seriously considering withdrawing the US from NAFTA, reiterating his promise to pursue the strongest deal possible and pledging to terminate the agreement “if we do not reach a fair deal for all.”
On Saturday, April 29, President Trump went on to sign two trade-related Executive Orders (EO).
The first EO states that the policy of the United States will be to negotiate agreements that benefit American workers, manufacturers, farmers and ranchers; protect intellectual property (IP) rights; and encourage domestic research & development. It is also states that the policy of the United States will be to renegotiate any existing trade agreement, investment agreement, or trade relation that, on net, harms the U.S. economic, businesses, IP rights, and “innovation rate,” or the American people.
The EO directs the Secretary of Commerce and the U.S. Trade Representative – working with the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Attorney General, and the newly-established Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy Director – to conduct comprehensive performance reviews of:
- All bilateral, plurilateral, and multilateral trade agreements and investment agreements to which the United States is a party; and
- All trade relations with countries governed by the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO) with which the United States does not have free trade agreements, but with which the United States runs significant trade deficits in goods.
The second EO establishes the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy (OTMP) within the White House. The OTMP’s stated mission 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.” Peter Navarro, previously Director of the White House National Trade Council, will serve as OTMP Director.
Last week’s developments provided the strongest indications yet that President Trump is ready to put his trade promises into action. International stakeholders must be prepared to engage with the Administration, to emphasize the importance of trade in the Western Hemisphere for the US economy and American jobs and businesses. The performance reviews mandated by the President’s April 29 EO – which are expected to help direct further policy-making efforts – will also provide Latin American stakeholders a chance to formally comment on the importance of existing trade relations and help to influence new policies going forward.