On April 29, 2017, President Trump signed an Executive Order Addressing Trade Agreement Violations and Abuses [not yet published in the Federal Register]. The Executive Order (EO) states that

Every trade agreement and investment agreement entered into by the United States, and all trade relations and trade preference programs of the United States, should enhance our economic growth, contribute favorably to our balance of trade, and strengthen the American manufacturing base. Many United States free trade agreements, investment agreements, and trade relations have failed, in whole or in part, to meet these criteria. The result has been large and persistent trade deficits, a lack of reciprocal treatment of American goods and investment, the offshoring of factories and jobs, the loss of American intellectual property and reduced technological innovation, downward pressure on wage and income growth, and an impaired tax base. It is the policy of the United States to negotiate new trade agreements, investment agreements, and trade relations that benefit American workers and domestic manufacturers, farmers, and ranchers; protect our intellectual property; and encourage domestic research and development. It is also the policy of the United States to renegotiate or terminate any existing trade agreement, investment agreement, or trade relation that, on net, harms the United States economy, United States businesses, United States intellectual property rights and innovation rate, or the American people.

The EO requires the Secretary of Commerce and the United States Trade Representative (USTR), in consultation with the Secretaries of State and the Treasury, the Attorney General, and the Director of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy, 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 performance reviews, which are to be submitted within 180 days from the date of the EO are to identify:

  • those violations or abuses of any United States trade agreement, investment agreement, WTO rule governing any trade relation under the WTO, or trade preference program that are harming American workers or domestic manufacturers, farmers, or ranchers; harming our intellectual property rights; reducing our rate of innovation; or impairing domestic research and development;
  • unfair treatment by trade and investment partners that is harming American workers or domestic manufacturers, farmers, or ranchers; harming our intellectual property rights; reducing our rate of innovation; or impairing domestic research and development;
  • instances where a trade agreement, investment agreement, trade relation, or trade preference program has failed with regard to such factors as predicted new jobs created, favorable effects on the trade balance, expanded market access, lowered trade barriers, or increased United States exports; and
  • lawful and appropriate actions to remedy or correct the deficiencies identified.

The findings will be used to help guide trade policy and trade negotiations. In addition, the EO directs the Secretary of Commerce, the USTR, and other heads of executive departments and agencies, as appropriate, to take every appropriate and lawful action to address violations of trade law, abuses of trade law, or instances of unfair treatment.