March 11, 2019

China, USMCA, Section 232 Tariffs Focus Of Trump Administration Annual Trade Policy Agenda

Earlier this month, the Office of the United States Trade Representative released the Trump administration’s 2019 Trade Policy Agenda and 2018 Annual Report, which is required by federal law. According to a fact sheet accompanying the report, the 2019 policy agenda called for:

  • Securing congressional approval and subsequent implementation of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement;
  • Supporting national security by strengthening the economy and preserving the innovation and technology, with the administration asserting that a World Trade Organization (WTO) decision to overrule U.S. national security determinations under Section 232 “would threaten serious damage to the multilateral trading system” and that the “United States intends to fight vigorously these efforts to impinge its national sovereignty”;
  • Launching new trade negotiations with Japan, the European Union, and the United Kingdom; and
  • Aggressively enforcing U.S. trade laws to protect the interests of American businesses and workers, including by monitoring trade agreement compliance, pursuing formal challenges under WTO dispute settlement procedures, and taking action, where appropriate, under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 or other statutory authorities.

The report also prioritized ongoing negotiations to press China to address longstanding U.S. concerns about unfair trade practices.

Those negotiations continue to move forward and currency manipulation continues to be a major focus of them. On Sunday, as reported by The Associated Press, officials at China’s central bank issued an official promise that the country would “never use the exchange rate for competitive purposes, nor will we use it to boost China’s exports.” On Capitol Hill, meanwhile, lawmakers have emphasized the need for strong enforcement measures. U.S. Senate Finance Committee Chair Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), who oversees trade policy in the upper chamber, said “Whatever we agree to as a matter of substance, enforcement is very important because we have been snookered by the Chinese in past agreements.”