11th November 2020
UK government still hasn’t produced a lorry drivers’ guide
Although in January Donald Trump summarised his objectives as “Buy American, hire American”, major policy priority summaries now almost ignore trade programmes.
Donald Trump’s February 28 Address to a joint session of the US Senate and House of Representatives outlined the issues he believed should dominate then immediate legislative programme.
The speech repeated his grievances about job losses since NAFTA was agreed and China joined the World Trade Organisation, and his belief in “free trade, but it also has to be fair trade”
It made no mention of what his administration’s policy would be towards NAFTA or China, or of a real philosophy for future trade deals – though the March 1st 2017 US Trade Representative policy agenda summarised below fleshes this philosophy out.
Trump’s legislative priorities appear to be:
With these competing priorities, it is hard to see how the complexities of trade policy can get much legislative time this year.
The Office of the US Trade Representative published its USTR AnnualReport2017 on March 1. It was only slightly less specific on programmes than Trump’s speech the previous evening.
The US Trade Representative is required to send the President its agenda by March 1 this year. Trump’s nominee, Robert Lighthizer, is unlikely to obtain Senate confirmation for some time, as his previous career requires a legal waiver. So staff at his office have said “we intend to submit a more detailed report on the President’s Trade Policy Agenda after the Senate has confirmed a USTR, and that USTR has had a full opportunity to participate in developing such a report.”
But, acting under the direction of White House National Trade Council Director Peter Navarro and likely USTR general counsel Stephen Vaughn, office staff have outlined some general priorities.
The agenda stresses that “at this time, the Trump Administration is not proposing legislation with respect to the objectives or priorities outlined in this statement.” It contains no indication of specific objectives in NAFTA renegotiation, its views on priorities or tactics on trade relations with China or its views on border taxes.
It seems clear that the Administration wants to await Robert Lighthizer’s confirmation before turning its general aspirations into detailed plans on trade relations. This makes it unlikely there will be any serious actions initiated, especially on China, submitting NAFTA renegotiation objectives to Congress or clarifying the Administration’s views on border tax proposals, until April at the earliest. Since all three issues then need some Congressional involvement, and there are now a number of competing priority proposals for Congressional time, no specific revised tariffs or regulations look likely in the first half of 2017.
But the USTR’s summary of the President’s Trade Policy Agenda is clear in presenting a new philosophy: challenging the legitimacy of multinational deals that conflict with US policy. This general view of the world seems almost universal throughout the Trump administration, however much debate there may be among its members about the merits, say, of a strong or weak dollar, or of whether China’s policy on currency threatens the US economy more or less than the pervasive role of its State institutions.
That new worldview is likely to underpin almost all US trade policy – with almost immediate effect. But the USTR report is quite specific about one aspect of its short-term implications: “At this time, the Trump Administration is not proposing legislation with respect to the objectives or priorities outlined in this statement.”
Congress will not be debating laws about quitting the WTO.