In his second State of the Union address to Congress, President Donald Trump noted that he campaigned on several core promises, including “to defend American jobs and demand fair trade for American workers.” He argued that his administration has “moved with urgency and historic speed to confront problems neglected by leaders of both parties over many decades” and indicated that “one priority is paramount – reversing decades of calamitous trade policies.”

His prepared speech included comments on the ongoing trade dispute with China and the Section 301 tariffs imposed on $250 billion worth of imported Chinese products. He noted that his administration continues to work on a new trade deal with China, but that any final agreement “must include real, structural change to end unfair trade practices, reduce our chronic trade deficit, and protect American jobs.” On the other major trade issue of 2018, the president called NAFTA an “historic trade blunder” and “catastrophe” that has now been addressed by the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). Trump called on Congress to pass the agreement in order to “bring … back our manufacturing jobs, [expand] American agriculture, [protect] intellectual property, and ensur[e] that more cars are proudly stamped with four beautiful words: made in the USA.”

In his only other significant remarks on trade, the president asked Congress to pass the United State Reciprocal Trade Act, arguing that the United States should be able to issue “the exact same tariff on the same product that they sell to us” if another country places an unfair tariff on a U.S. product. See also Trump and Trade Update of January 25 for more details on this act and other recently introduced trade- and tariff-related legislation.

Concerning economic sanctions and relations with certain “rogue” countries, the president announced that he will meet again with Kim Jong-un, Supreme Leader of North Korea, on February 26-27, 2019, in Vietnam, acknowledging that “much work remains to be done.” Trump highlighted his administration’s recent decision to officially recognized the legitimate government of Venezuela and its new interim president, Juan Guaidó. President Trump noted that he has “acted decisively to confront the world’s leading state sponsor of terror: the radical regime in Iran” and “put in place the toughest sanctions ever imposed on a country” after withdrawing from the “disastrous Iran nuclear deal.”

Shortly after the president’s address, the White House released a series of fact sheets on the various topics covered in his message, including “President Donald J. Trump Has Forged New Trade Agreements to Revitalize American Industry and Agriculture.”

The White House has released a fact sheet listing the “historic results” of President Donald Trump’s first two years in office. For international trade, these results are listed:

”NEGOTIATING BETTER DEALS FOR THE AMERICAN PEOPLE: President Trump is negotiating fair and balanced trade deals that protect American industries and workers.

  • President Trump negotiated a new trade agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico to replace the disastrous and outdated North American Free Trade Agreement.
    • Once enacted by Congress, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) will better serve the interests of American workers and businesses.
    • USMCA will incentivize billions of dollars in auto and auto parts production in the United States and create a freer and fairer market for American agriculture.
    • USMCA also includes the strongest-ever provisions on labor, environmental, digital, and intellectual property protections to reflect the realities of the 21st century economy.
  • The President renegotiated the United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement to preserve and grow jobs in the American auto industry and increase American exports.
  • The United States and Japan are set to begin negotiations on a United States-Japan Trade Agreement.
  • President Trump is establishing a new trade relationship with the European Union (EU), working toward the elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers to transatlantic trade.
  • President Trump has established a Trade and Investment Working Group to lay the groundwork for post-Brexit trade with the United Kingdom (UK) and has notified Congress of his intent to negotiate a free trade agreement with the UK.
  • Under President Trump, the United States will no longer accept bad trade deals and unfair trade practices that harm American workers and industries.
    • One of the President’s first actions after taking office was withdrawing the United States from the terrible Trans-Pacific Partnership, which incentivized outsourcing.
    • In 2017, the Administration oversaw 82 antidumping and countervailing duty investigations.
  • President Trump is holding China accountable for its unfair trade practices, such as the theft of intellectual property, by imposing tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese goods.
    • Following President Trump’s successful meeting with President Xi in Buenos Aires, both agreed to conduct negotiations over 90 days to address the United States concerns.
  • American steel and aluminum jobs are coming back following President Trump’s tariffs to protect domestic industries that are vital to national security.
  • President Trump imposed tariffs to protect American-made washing machines and solar products that were hurt by import surges.
  • President Trump has expanded market access for American agricultural producers.
    • Argentina has opened to American pork and beef, Brazil to American beef, Japan to lamb and Idaho chipping potatoes, South Korea to American poultry, and more.
    • The Administration authorized $12 billion to aid farmers affected by unfair retaliatory tariffs.”

International trade and international trade disputes were a predominant focus of President Trump and his trade officials throughout 2018. Thompson Hine’s Trump and Trade team has prepared a slide presentation to provide our readers with a broad overview of the most significant trade actions taken by the Trump administration last year. From the renegotiation of the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which is now the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), to the many ongoing trade actions involving imports of steel, aluminum and products from China, it was a busy year. This overview concisely presents details and the current status of the president’s primary trade activities.

The presentation includes information on the current status of President Trump’s major trade actions, including NAFTA/USMCA negotiations, the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement, and other bilateral trade negotiations with Japan, the European Union and the United Kingdom. It also provides details on major trade and tariff actions occurring in 2018, such as the Section 232 steel/aluminum tariffs, the Section 232 automobile and automobile parts investigation, and the Section 301 China-related tariffs.

We invite you to stay abreast of continuing developments in 2019 via our blog, TrumpandTrade.com. To receive an email notification whenever a new post is published, please subscribe to the blog.

Happy new year!

On December 1, 2018, President Donald Trump announced his intention to formally terminate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 2019. Addressing the press aboard Air Force One, Trump stated that he will terminate the agreement within six months in an effort to get the U.S. Congress to move on implementing the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA): “And so Congress will have a choice of the USMCA or pre-NAFTA, which worked very well.” In accordance with NAFTA Article 2205, “A party may withdraw from this Agreement six months after it provides written notice of withdrawal to the other Parties.” While the president can announce his intention to withdraw from the agreement and even deliver written notice of termination, it remains open for debate if congressional approval is required for complete termination to take effect.

These comments set the stage for a showdown with congressional leaders on the passage of the USMCA and whether it can be done within the president’s desired timeline. Senator Ron Wyden, the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, issued a statement shortly after the USMCA was signed on November 30, 2019 indicating that he still has some concerns about the negotiated USMCA: “Over the coming months I will push to see that these concerns are addressed before Congress considers this proposal.” To implement the USMCA, a majority in each chamber of Congress is required to pass the law; as a result of the mid-term congressional elections in November, Trump will need bipartisan support to obtain that majority.

On the sidelines of the international G-20 (Group of Twenty) forum in Buenos Aires, Argentina, U.S. President Donald Trump, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto signed today the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), launching the formal process to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). During the signing ceremony, Trump stated, “This new agreement will ensure a future of prosperity and innovation for Mexico, Canada and the United States.”

Today’s ceremony is a significant milestone for Trump, who focused on the modernization of the NAFTA in his presidential campaign, and follows an intense period of negotiations completed in September 2018 (see Trump and Trade Update, October 2, 2018). The signing ceremony also occurred on Nieto’s final day in office and despite the parties’ continuing disagreement over the Section 232 tariffs the United States has placed on steel and aluminum imports from Canada and Mexico. In brief remarks, Trudeau raised the need to remove these tariffs, stating that “With hard work, good will and determination, I’m confident we will get there,” and adding that “Our shared interests, prosperity and security demand it.”

While the USMCA has now been signed, the trade agreement must still be ratified by Congress. Trump notified Congress on August 31, 2018 of his intent to sign the agreement, and this notification triggered certain procedures under the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) (formally known as the Trade Preferences Extension Act of 2015). Now that the USMCA is signed, the Trump administration has 60 days under TPA to report to Congress changes to U.S. law that are required to comply with the terms of the agreement. Also, within 105 days of the agreement being signed, the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) must complete a study of the agreement’s economic impact (see Trump and Trade Update, October 16, 2018 and ITC Notice of Investigation). Eventually, the Congress will have to pass legislation to implement the USMCA, a final step in the implementation process which may have become more difficult with the Democratic Party assuming control of the House of Representatives in the next session of Congress in January 2019. While Trump expressed confidence today that the USMCA will pass Congress in the new year, bilateral opposition in both houses of Congress is mounting, which may lead to more side letters on certain issues or concessions on other unrelated legislation. The legislatures in Mexico and Canada must also ratify the trade agreement, but approval in both without much pushback is expected. Most trade analysts are predicting that the terms of the agreement may not truly be finalized and implemented until well into 2019.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) issued a significant ruling in September that distinguished between North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) country-of-origin marking rules and the country-of-origin rules applying to products subject to Section 301 tariffs and trade remedy duties. In its ruling, CBP determined that Chinese-origin components imported into Mexico for assembly into an electric motor satisfied the requirements for marking the assembled product as a product of Mexico in accordance with the NAFTA Marking Rules; however, it ruled that the Chinese-origin components were not “substantially transformed” in Mexico and that the assembled final product remained a product of China subject to the U.S. government’s Section 301 retaliatory tariffs on imports of Chinese electric motors and to any potential trade remedy duty. CBP’s determination requires importers to understand thoroughly their supply chains, including the manufacturing processes of their suppliers and the origin of components used in those manufacturing processes.

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Following receipt of a request from the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) has initiated investigation No. TPA-105-003 for the purpose of preparing the report required by section 105(c) of the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015. The report will assess the likely impact of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) on the U.S. economy as a whole and on selected industry sectors. Transmittal of the final USITC report to the president and Congress must occur no later than 105 days after the president enters into the agreement.

The investigation, United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement: Likely Impact on the U.S. Economy and on Specific Industry Sectors, was requested by the USTR in a letter received on August 31, 2018. In assessing the likely impact of the USMCA on the U.S. economy, the report will include information and data on the impact the agreement will have on the gross domestic product, exports and imports, aggregate employment and employment opportunities, the production, employment and competitive position of industries likely to be significantly affected by the agreement, and the interests of U.S. consumers.

Key Dates:

  • October 29, 2018: Deadline for filing requests to appear at the public hearing
  • October 30, 2018: Deadline for filing prehearing briefs and statements
  • November 15-16, 2018: Public hearing at USITC
  • December 20, 2018: Deadline for written submissions from the public

Further information on the scope of the investigation and the procedures for written submissions are available in the USITC’s notice of investigation, dated October 12, 2018.

After successful, last-minute negotiations, Canada and the United States agreed on September 30, 2018 to revise and modernize the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The United States and Mexico previously announced their intent to proceed with a revised trade agreement (see Trump and Trade Update dated September 4). In remarks to the press, President Trump said, “Throughout the campaign, I promised to renegotiate NAFTA, and today we have kept that promise,” adding, “Once approved by Congress, this new deal will be the most modern, up-to-date, and balanced trade agreement in the history of our country, with the most advanced protections for workers ever developed.”

To augment the president’s announcement, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) released a series of fact sheets concerning the renegotiated trade agreement with Mexico and Canada:

According to the USTR, these features are among the highlights of the new agreement:

  • U.S. auto manufacturers and workers will benefit from new rules of origin requiring 75 percent of auto content to be produced in North America, and the new agreement will incentivize billions of dollars in additional U.S. vehicle and auto parts production.
  • New trade rules will increase wages by requiring that 40-45 percent of auto content be performed by workers earning at least $16 per hour.
  • For textiles, the agreement will promote greater use of Made-in-the-USA fibers, yarns and fabrics. It also establishes provisions for textile-specific verification and customs cooperation that provide new tools for strengthening customs enforcement and preventing fraud and circumvention.
  • The new labor chapter is a core part of the agreement and will make the labor provisions fully enforceable.
  • Canada will eliminate its “Class 7” program that allows low-priced dairy ingredients to undersell U.S. dairy products, and will provide new access for U.S. products, including fluid milk, cream, butter, skim milk powder, cheese and other dairy products. Canada will also eliminate its tariffs on whey and margarine.
  • For poultry, Canada will provide new access for U.S. chicken and eggs and increase its access for turkey. Under this agreement, all other tariffs on agricultural products traded between the United States and Mexico will remain at zero.
  • The new agreement includes a modernized, high-standard chapter that provides strong protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights, including 10 years of data protection for biologic drugs and a large scope of products eligible for protection.
  • Strong measures on digital trade have been established, including rules to ensure data can be transferred cross-border and to minimize limits on where data can be stored.
  • An updated financial services chapter includes commitments to liberalize financial services markets and facilitate a level playing field for U.S. financial institutions, investors and investments in financial institutions, and cross-border trade in financial services.
  • The environment chapter includes enforceable environmental obligations, including obligations to combat trafficking in wildlife, timber and fish; strengthen law enforcement networks to stem such trafficking; and address pressing environmental issues such as air quality and marine litter.

On August 31, 2018, President Donald Trump officially notified Congress of his administration’s intent “to enter into a trade agreement with Mexico — and with Canada if it is willing, in a timely manner, to meet the high standards for free, fair, and reciprocal trade contained therein.” Notification was necessary under the provisions of the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation, which allows “fast track” consideration of trade agreements (i.e., Congress can vote to approve or reject a trade deal but cannot amend the text of the agreement). In the wake of the president’s notification, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer indicated that a resulting free trade agreement could either be bilateral (with Mexico) or trilateral (with Canada also), depending upon the final negotiated text of any agreement. It has been questioned, however, whether a bilateral agreement fulfills TPA requirements since Congress had been earlier notified of the Trump administration’s intent to renegotiate a trilateral North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). If Congress believes that a free trade agreement with only Mexico does not qualify for TPA consideration, amendments could be offered by Congress, potentially complicating any final agreement. With Congressional notification under the TPA, the actual text of any agreement must be submitted to Congress within the next 30 days for its consideration. Continue Reading Trump Administration Moves Forward with Proposed Trade Agreement with Mexico, Continues Negotiations with Canada

On August 27, 2018, the United States and Mexico reached a preliminary agreement “in principle, subject to finalization and implementation,” to update the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) stated that the updated agreement will “support mutually beneficial trade leading to freer markets, fairer trade, and robust economic growth in North America.” In reaching the agreement with Mexico, President Trump stated that, “America has … finally turned the page on decades of unfair trade deals that sacrificed our prosperity and shipped away our companies, our jobs, and our Nation’s wealth.” Continue Reading United States and Mexico Agree in Principle to New Trade Agreement