Timeline of Trade Policy in the Trump Administration

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Note: This timeline intends to provide a complete list of trade actions taken by the Trump administration since day one (January 20, 2017) in the categories of:

  •  Policy document: includes all proclamations, announcements, decisions, and official reports released by the White House and government agencies under the executive branch (such as the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative).
  • Trade remedy measures: includes all policy actions taken under the U.S. trade remedy laws, such as anti-dumping, countervailing duty, safeguard measures, and Section 301 investigation. 
  • Trade agreement: includes the negotiation, modification, and termination of any U.S. free trade agreement and trade preference programs.
  • WTO: includes the using of any exciting WTO mechanisms and any WTO-related trade actions.
  • Personnel: includes the nomination, appointment, and resignation of key executive branch officials responsible for U.S. trade policy.

All entries are documented with official links provided–however, I don’t track Trump’s tweets. I hope the timeline can provide a fact-based record useful to industry professionals and scholars. All suggestions and advice are more than welcome (Email: shenglu@udel.edu).

Suggested citation: Lu, Sheng. (2018). Timeline of trade policy in the Trump administration. Retrieved from https://shenglufashion.com/timeline-of-trade-policy-in-the-trump-administration/

Disclaimer: All posts on this site are for FASH455 educational and academic research purposes only, and they are nonpolitical and nonpartisan. No blog post has the intention to favor or oppose any particular political party, nor shall be interpreted that way.

(updated: November 13, 2018)

November 2, 2018: President Trump announced his intent to terminate the eligibility of Mauritania for trade preference benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), as of January 1, 2019, due to forced labor practices. According to the Office of U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), the United States will continue to monitor whether Mauritania is making continual progress toward the protection of internationally recognized worker rights (including with respect to forced labor) in accordance with the AGOA eligibility requirements. [Policy document] [Trade agreement]

October 30, 2018: President Trump announced to appoint the following individuals to be Members of the Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations (ACPTN) for terms of four years:

  • Fred Bergsten of Virginia (Peterson Institute of International Economics)
  • Evan G. Greenberg of New York (Chubb Group)
  • James P. Hoffa of Michigan (International Brotherhood of Teamsters)
  • Harold McGraw III of Connecticut
  • Timothy P. Smucker of Ohio

ACTPN is a statutory non-discretionary trade advisory committee established to provide overall policy advice to the U.S. Trade Representative on matters arising connection with the development, implementation and administration of U.S. trade policy. [Personnel]

October 17, 2018, the Treasury Department released its semi-annual report on currency practices of major trading partners. The report once again does NOT label China a “currency manipulator.” The report noted that China’s direct intervention to reduce the value of its currency had been “limited,” but it said Beijing’s practices deserved scrutiny. Along with China, the Treasury Department said that Germany, India, Japan, Korea and Switzerland would remain on its “monitoring list” for potential manipulation. [Policy document]

October 16, 2018: the Trump Administration notified U.S. Congress its intention to negotiate the U.S.-EU Free Trade Agreement, U.S.-Japan Free Trade Agreement and U.S.-UK Free Trade Agreement. The Office of U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) says that the negotiation will aim to address both tariff and non-tariff barriers and to achieve “fairer, more balanced trade” with these trading partners.  According to the 2015 Trade Promotion Authority Act, the earliest day to start the negotiation will be around 14 January 2019 (i.e., 90 days notification to Congress of the intention to begin negotiation). Meanwhile, USTR will publish objectives for the negotiations at least 30 days before formal trade negotiations begin. [Trade agreement]

September 30, 2018: The United States reached an agreement with Canada, alongside Mexico on the updated North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), now called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). According to the fact sheet released by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), USMCA will include new provisions on textiles that incentivize greater North American production in textiles and apparel trade, strengthen customs enforcement, and facilitate broader consultation and cooperation among the Parties. More specifically, USMCA will promote greater use of Made-in-the-USA fibers, yarns, and fabrics by:

  • Limiting rules that allow for some use of non-NAFTA inputs in textile and apparel trade.
  • Requiring that sewing thread, pocketing fabric, narrow elastic bands, and coated fabric, when incorporated in most apparel and other finished products, be made in the region for those finished products to qualify for trade benefits.
  • Establish a Textiles chapter for North American trade, including textile-specific verification and customs cooperation provisions that provide new tools for strengthening customs enforcement and preventing fraud and circumvention in this important sector.

USTR says that “the new Textiles chapter provisions are stronger than those in NAFTA 1.0 with respect to both enforcement and incentivizing North American production of textiles.” [Trade agreement]

September 26, 2018: In a joint statement, the United States and Japan announced that the two countries would enter into negotiations, following the completion of necessary domestic procedures, for a United States-Japan trade agreement on goods [Note: NOT a comprehensive bilateral free trade agreement], as well as on other key areas including services, that can produce early achievements. According to the statement, the U.S. will seek more access to the Japanese auto market and that the Japanese will not go beyond any previous commitments to open their protected agriculture market. [Policy document] [Trade agreement]

September 24, 2018: In a joint statement, the United States and South Korea announced the signature of the renegotiated US-Kore Free Trade Agreement (KORUS). The revised KORUS will particularly open up the Korean auto markets to U.S. exports and will allow the U.S. to continue to impose a 25% tariff on Korean trucks until 2041. There is no change to the textile chapter in the agreement. The U.S. also agreed to permanently exclude South Korea from the steel tariffs, except South Korea shall cap its exports to the United States at 70 percent of the average of its export levels from 2015 through 2017. South Korea will still face the aluminum tariffs. [Policy document] [Trade agreement]

September 17, 2018: President Trump formerly announced to take the Section 301 action against another $200 billion worth of imports from China. The additional tariffs will be effective starting September 24, 2018, and initially will be in the amount of 10 percent.  Starting January 1, 2019, the level of the additional tariffs will increase to 25 percent. The $200 billion imports from China targeted include 5,745 full or partial lines of the original 6,031 tariff lines that were on a proposed list of Chinese imports announced on July 10, 2018. Included among the products removed from the original proposed list are certain consumer electronics products such as smart watches and Bluetooth devices; certain chemical inputs for manufactured goods, textiles and agriculture; certain health and safety products such as bicycle helmets, and child safety furniture such as car seats and playpens. However, the final $200 billion product list still includes about 20% consumer products (v.s. only 1% in the $50 billion already subject to the 25% additional tariff), 50% intermediary goods and 30% capital goods. Notably, several textile and apparel-related products such as backpacks, handbags, purses, wallets, baseball gloves, hats and leather, and fur apparel, as well as textiles and machinery that are used for domestic manufacturing are targeted. Shortly after the announcement of the new tariff, leading U.S. fashion and apparel industry associations expressed their deep disappointment. On September 18, China announced to put its own retaliatory tariffs on approximately $60 billion American goods effective September 24, 2018. Specifically, 2493 tariff lines in list 1 and another 1078 tariff lines in list 2 will be subject to a 10% additional tariff. 974 tariff lines in list 3 and 662 tariff lines in list 4 will be subject to a 5% additional tariff. [Policy document] [Trade remedy measures]

September 13, 2018: President Trump signed the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (MTB) Act of 2018 into law. The new bill goes into effect 30 days after the President’s signature, which should be as early as October 13, 2018. The last MTB passed by Congress expired on December 31, 2012. The new MTB will temporarily cut or eliminate import tariffs until December 2020 on articles such as chemicals, footwear, textiles, toasters, and roughly 1,660 other items that are not made in the U.S.. Roughly, half of those items are produced in China. The 2018 MTB will cover two apparel items:

  • Babies’ woven apparel of linen (provided for in subheading 6209.90.90)
  • Men’s or boys’ knitted or crocheted pullovers and cardigans, containing 70 percent or more by weight of silk, each with more than 9 stitches/2 cm, measured in the direction the stitches were formed, and an average of less than 10 stitches/linear cm in each direction counted on an area measuring at least 10 cm by 10 cm, such apparel articles that reach the waist (provided for in subheading 6110.90.10)

Both the U.S. textile industry and apparel industry say they welcome the new MTB.  

The original MTB legislation was introduced in the early 1980s, with two main goals: 1) help U.S. domestic manufacturers compete by temporarily reducing or suspending import tariffs for intermediaries. 2) give importers a means to request other technical corrections to the Harmonized Tariff System of the United States (HTSUS). In general, MTB requests should be “non-controversial”, i.e., there should be no domestic production or opposition from domestic U.S. producers and requests should not create excess revenue losses for the United States. [Policy document]

September 10, 2018: The Office of U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) released a statement on the U.S.-EU Trade talk. According to the statement: 1) the two sides plan to hold discussions in September and October 2018 to identify tariffs and non-tariff barriers to cut. 2) the two sides plan to finalize the outcomes “in a number of areas” in November. 3) the two sides hope for an early harvest in the areas of technical barriers to trade (TBT). 4) USTR will begin Congress “pursuant to Trade Promotion Authority to facilitate negotiations on longer-term outcomes”—a necessary step for a potential US-EU trade agreement. [Trade agreement]

August 31, 2018: U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer announced that President Trump formally notified the Congress of his intent to sign a trade agreement with Mexico – and Canada, which will replace the existing North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). To meet the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) timeline requirement, the Office of U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) must publish the full text of the agreement by 9/30/2018 (i.e. 30 days after notifying Congress), which will be the window that USTR and Canada still can negotiate. The earliest that President Trump can sign the agreement will be 11/29/2018 (i.e. 90 days after notifying the Congress), then the U.S. International Trade Commission has until 3/14/2019 (i.e., 150 days after President signing the agreement) to release an assessment of the new trade agreement. In his letter to the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate, President Trump also confirmed he “intends to enter into the agreement by the end of November 2018” and he “intends to enter into a trade agreement with Mexico — and with Canada if it is willing…” Afterward, the Trump Administration will need to work with the Congress to develop legislation to approve and implement the agreement. [Trade agreement]

August 27, 2018: The Office of U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) announced that the United States and Mexico have “reached a preliminary agreement in principle” to update the 24-year old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). According to USTR, the renegotiated agreement includes a new chapter specifically dealing with textile and apparel. In the statement, USTR said that “The new provisions on textiles incentivize greater United States and Mexican production in textiles and apparel trade, strengthen customs enforcement, and facilitate broader consultation and cooperation among the Parties on issues related to textiles and apparel trade.” More specifically, the new textile chapter in renegotiated NAFTA will:

  1. Promote greater use of Made-in-the-USA fibers, yarns, and fabrics by limiting rules that allow for some use of non-NAFTA inputs in textile and apparel trade; and requiring that sewing thread, pocketing fabric, narrow elastic bands, and coated fabric, when incorporated in apparel and other finished products, be made in the region for those finished products to qualify for trade benefits. “
  2. include textile-specific verification and customs cooperation provisions that provide new tools for strengthening customs enforcement and preventing fraud and circumvention.

Based on USTR’s statement, it is possible, although not confirmed, that the tariff preference level (TPL) can be more limited in the new NAFTA. On the other hand, it is unclear whether and when Canada will rejoin the NAFTA negotiation. [Trade agreement]

August 23, 2018: According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the additional import duties for Chinese goods covered by the Section 301 action officially take into effect after 12:01am. The new duties will affect 279 lines of products, which cover approximately $16 billion worth of imports from China. Meanwhile, U.S. companies may request to exclude a particular product from the additional tariff by following the procedure stated in the Federal Register notice

On the same day, China said it immediately put its own retaliatory tariffs on approximately $16 billion American goods. China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) also said it filed a new WTO complaint about the United States’ Section 301 tariff measures on Chinese goods on August 23, 2018. [Policy document] [Trade remedy measures] [WTO]

August 7, 2018: The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) released the final list of approximately $16 billion worth of imports from China that will be subject to a 25% additional tariff as part of the U.S. Section 301 action against China’s unfair trade practices. According to USTR, the list contains 279 of the original 284 tariff lines on a proposed list announced on June 15, 2018. The five 8-digit HTS tariff items that were excluded from the final List include 3913.10.00, 8465.96.00, 8609.00.00, 8905.90.10 and 9027.90.20. Changes to the proposed list were made after USTR and the interagency Section 301 Committee sought and received written comments and testimony during a two-day public hearing in July 2018. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will begin to collect the additional duties on the Chinese imports on August 23, 2018. In response, China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) also announced to impose a 25% additional tariff on $16 billion US exports to China (333 tariff lines), effective August 23, 2018. [Policy document] [Trade remedy measures]

August 3, 2018: The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative announced it would review Turkey’s eligibility for the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program that grants duty-free access to the U.S. market. USTR said that it launched the review based on 1) concerns related to Turkey’s compliance with the GSP market access criterion; 2) Turkey’s retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods in response to the Section 232 tariffs imposed by the U.S. in March 2018. The United States imported $1.66 billion in 2017 from Turkey under the GSP program, representing 17.7 percent of total U.S. imports from Turkey.  The leading GSP import categories were vehicles and vehicle parts, jewelry and precious metals, and stone articles. [Trade agreement]

August 1, 2018: U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer released a statement and indicated that President Trump is considering increasing the proposed additional tariff from 10 percent to 25 percent on $200 billion worth of U.S. imports from China. The $200 billion product list, released by USTR on July 20, 2018, covers textiles, travel goods, hats, specialty apparel, accessories, and machinery. In the statement, Lighthizer also announced to extend the close of the written comment period for the proposed additional tariffs from August 30 to September 5, and the due date for requests to appear at the public hearing (scheduled August 20-23, 2018)  extended to August 13, 2018. Additionally, Lighthizer once again urged China “to stop its unfair practices, open its market, and engage in true market competition” and said that the United States “remains ready to engage with China in negotiations that could resolve these and other problems detailed in our Section 301 report.” [Policy document] [Trade remedy measures]

July 30, 2018: In a proclamation released by the White House, President Trump announced to suspend Rwanda’s duty-free treatment for all African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA)-eligible apparel products until Rwanda “comes back into compliance with the AGOA eligibility requirements.” Losing the AGOA benefits means Rwanda’s apparel exports to the United States now will be subject to the most-favored-nation (MFN) tariff rate, which averaged 12.8% for knitted apparel (HS chapter 61) and 10.1% on woven apparel (HS chapter 62). In 2017, the United States imported $1.5 million apparel from Rwanda, which accounted for approximately only 3% of Rwanda’s total exports to the United States. According to the proclamation, Rwanda remains eligible to receive non-apparel benefits available under AGOA. [Policy document] [Trade agreement]

July 27, 2018: After his meeting with European Commission President Juncker, President Trump announced that the United States and the European Union would conduct high-level trade negotiations to cut both tariff and non-tariff trade barriers significantly. In the White House announcement, President Trump said that the trade negotiation would include four principles to achieve freer, fairer, and more reciprocal trade between the “two countries”:

  • Working toward zero tariffs, zero non-tariff barriers, and zero subsidies on non-auto industrial goods. The two sides will also work to reduce barriers and increase trade in services, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, medical products, as well as soybeans.
  • Increasing United States energy (liquefied natural gas, LNG) exports to Europe;
  • Easing trade, reducing bureaucratic obstacles, and slashing costs; and
  • Work closely together with like-minded partners to reform the WTO and to address unfair trading practices, including intellectual property theft, forced technology transfer, industrial subsidies, distortions created by state-owned enterprises, and overcapacity.

According to the White House announcement, the United States and the EU will immediately set up an Executive Working Group for the negotiation and the discussions will also include topics such as the United States steel and aluminum tariffs and EU retaliatory tariffs. [Policy document][Trade agreement][WTO]

July 26, 2018: At the World Trade Organization (WTO) General Council meeting, the U.S. ambassador Dennis Shea presented a document entitled “China’s trade-disruptive economic model.” Focusing on China’s state-led and mercantilist approach to trade, the paper raises concerns that the Chinese government and the Communist Party continue to control or otherwise influence the price of key factors of production, including land, labor, energy, and capital and the means of production are not sufficiently allocated or priced according to market principles. The document signals the Trump Administration’s strong will to address the root of US-China trade dispute: China’s industrial policies that deploy massive market-distorting subsidies and provide other forms of financial support for targeted domestic industries. [WTO]

July 24, 2018: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced to provide up to $12 billion financial aid to U.S. farmers to shield them from the negative impacts of the trade war between the United States and its trading partners. USDA said that $12 billion assistance is in line with the estimated $11 billion impacts of the unjustified retaliatory tariffs on U.S. agricultural goods and the aid will assist agricultural producers to meet the costs of disrupted markets. [Policy document] [Trade remedy measures]

July 16, 2018: According to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), the United States launched separate disputes at the World Trade Organization (WTO) against China, the European Union, Canada, Mexico and Turkey, challenging the tariffs each WTO Member imposed in response to President Trump’s Section 232 actions on trade in aluminum and steel to protect the United States’ national security interests. [Trade remedy measures] [WTO]

July 12, 2018: When addressing at the 2018 U.S.-Saharan Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum (AGOA Forum), U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said that the Trump Administration is interested in negotiating a model free trade agreement with a sub-Saharan African country. It is unclear which country or countries the U.S. will negotiate with to develop a model agreement. According to Lighthizer, there will be three core objectives for the negotiation: (1) pursue a bilateral agreement with a willing partner; (2) ensure that this agreement is crafted so that it can serve as a model that can be rolled out to other willing partners in sub-Saharan Africa in the future; and (3) ensure that the model agreement will reinforce regional and continental integration in Africa. However, Lighthizer explicitly said that “To be clear, the United States is not abandoning AGOA for either the short term or the long term.” Of concerns to most U.S. fashion brands and apparel retailers is that while AGOA adopts the most liberal “third country fabric” rules of origin, almost all U.S. free trade agreement adopt the strict “yarn-forward” rules.  [Trade agreement]

July 10, 2018: Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) announced it would impose a 10 percent additional tariff on another $200 billion of Chinese imports based on the results of its Section 301 investigation and China’s retaliation and failure to change its unfair trade practices. The $200 billion product list includes 6,000 lines of product and product categories, including textiles (HTS chapters 50-60), headwear (HTS chapter 65), leather apparel, gloves, handbags and travel goods (HTS chapter 42), and rattan bags (HTS chapter 46). However, the list does NOT include wearing apparel (HTS chapters 61-62), home textiles (HTS chapter 63) and footwear (HTS 64). There is no published effective date at this time. USTR will accept public comments until August 17, 2018, host a public hearing August 20-23, 2018 and accept post-hearing rebuttal comments until August 30, 2018. [Policy document] [Trade remedy measures]

July 6, 2018: Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) released the product exclusion process for Chinese products subject to Section 301 tariffs. USTR says that upon request, the exclusion may include a particular product within a subheading, but not the tariff subheading as a whole. When reviewing the request, USTR may consider “USTR may consider whether a product is available from a source outside of China, whether the additional duties would cause severe economic harm to the requestor or other U.S. interests, and whether the particular product is strategically important or related to Chinese industrial programs including ‘Made in China 2025’.” The public will have 90 days to file a request for a product exclusion; the request period will end on October 9, 2018.Exclusions will be effective for one year upon the publication of the exclusion determination in the Federal Register, and will apply retroactively to July 6, 2018. [Policy document] [Trade remedy measures]

July 6, 2018: According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the additional import duties for Chinese goods covered by the Section 301 action officially take into effect after 12:01am. The new duties will affect 818 lines of products, which cover approximately $34 billion worth of imports from China. On the same day, China said it immediately put its own similarly sized tariffs on an unspecified clutch of American goods. Previously, the Chinese government had said it would tax pork, soybeans and automobiles, among other goods. China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) also said it filed a new WTO complaint over the United States’ Section 301 tariff measures on Chinese goods on July 6, 2018. [Policy document] [Trade remedy measures] [WTO]

July 1, 2018: According to the announcement from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the Trump Administration received the extension of Trade Promotion Authority (“fast track”) from U.S. Congress for three more years. [Trade Agreement] [Policy document]

June 29, 2018: Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) released the 2018 Biennial Report on the Implementation of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which is the second report of its kind after the extension of AGOA in 2015. According to the report, USTR will conduct its annual review of the eligibility of sub-Saharan African countries to receive benefits under AGOA. Public comments, which are due no later than 23 August 2018, and information presented at a 16 August 2018 public hearing will be considered in developing recommendations on AGOA country eligibility for 2019. The following have not been designated as beneficiary SSA countries in 2018 and are up for review: Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea (graduated from GSP), Eritrea, Seychelles (graduated from GSP), Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Zimbabwe. [Trade agreement]

June 19, 2018: President Trump announced that he had directed the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to identify $200 billion worth of Chinese goods for additional tariffs at a rate of 10 percent in response to China’s action to raise tariffs on $50 billion worth of United States exports. The announcement said that after the legal process is complete, these tariffs would go into effect if China refuses to change its practices, and insists on going forward with the new tariffs that it has recently announced. Trump also threatens to pursue additional tariffs on another $200 billion of goods, should China increase its tariffs yet again. Because the value of U.S. imports from China totaled $505 billion in 2017, it is increasingly likely that the $200 billion retaliation list may include textile and apparel products. [Policy document] [Trade remedy measures]

June 19, 2018: the White House Office of Trade & Manufacturing Policy (OTMP) released a report outlining how China’s policies threaten the economic and national security of the United States. The report lists more than 50 acts, policies, and practices China uses to implement its “Made in China 2025” and China’s industrial policy in seeking to acquire the intellectual property and technologies of the world. While the report provides no specific policy recommendation, it suggests that China’s acts, policies, and practices of economic aggression targeting the technologies and IP of the world threaten not only the U.S. economy but also the global innovation system as a whole, particularly given the size of China’s economy. [Policy document]

June 15, 2018, The Trump Administration announced to impose a 25% punitive tariff on a list of Chinese goods based on the results of its section 301 investigation, which targeted against China’s unfair trade practices related to the forced transfer of American technology and intellectual property. The additional duty will first apply to 818 lines of products on July 6, 2018, which cover approximately $34 billion worth of imports from China. USTR said it would issue a final determination on the second set of 284 proposed tariff lines, which cover approximately $16 billion worth of imports from China shortly. The total 1,102 tariff lines targeted by USTR generally focuses on products from industrial sectors that contribute to or benefit from the “Made in China 2025” industrial policy, which include industries such as aerospace, information and communications technology, robotics, industrial machinery, new materials, and automobiles. No textile and apparel products will be subject to the punitive tariff and the list also excludes the majority of the textile machinery initially on the retaliation product list back in April 2018. In response to the U.S. action, China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) quickly announced its proposed countermeasures, including a 25% punitive tariff on approximately $34 billion worth of U.S. soybean, autos, and fruits effective July 6, 2018. China is also ready to impose the punitive tariff on another list of products, which cover approximately $16 billion worth of medical device, chemicals and energy imports from the U.S. [Policy document] [Trade remedy measures]

June 4, 2018, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross concluded his two-day trade negotiation with China in Beijing. A White House statement said “the meetings focused on reducing the United States’ trade deficit by facilitating the supply of agricultural and energy products to meet China’s growing consumption needs, which will help support growth and employment in the United States. The United States officials conveyed President Donald J. Trump’s clear goal for achieving a fair trading relationship with China.” While the announcement didn’t mention the next round, it says that the delegation will “receive guidance on the path forward.” [Policy document] [Trade remedy measures]

May 31, 2018, President Trump signed two proclamations, which announced to impose Section 232 punitive tariffs on steel (25 percent ad valorem tariff) and aluminum (imposing a 10 percent ad valorem tariff) imports from Mexico, Canada, and the European Union as of June 1, 2018. The punitive tariffs for these three countries and regions were suspended since March 2018 because of the ongoing NAFTA renegotiation and trade talks. After President Trump’s announcement, the Mexican government said it plans to retaliate with comparable penalties on U.S. products, including lamps, pork, fruit, cheese and flat steel. Similarly, Canada said it would place tariffs on up to 16 billion Canadian dollars ($12.4 billion) worth of American goods, including steel and aluminum. Canada also filed a case against the U.S. tariff action at the World Trade Organization. Additionally, the EU trade commission said it would launch legal proceedings against the US in the WTO and “rebalance” the situation by targeting a list of US products with additional duties. This list includes American-made clothing (e.g., blue jeans, t-shirts) and footwear. [Policy document] [Trade remedy measures] [WTO]

May 29, 2018, President Trump suddenly announced that the United States will impose a 25 percent tariff on $50 billion of goods imported from China containing industrially significant technology, including those related to the “Made in China 2025” program.  The final list of covered imports will be announced by June 15, 2018. The announcement also said that the U.S. Trade Representative Office (USTR) will continue WTO dispute settlement against China originally initiated in March to address China’s discriminatory technology licensing requirements. Additionally, the United States will implement specific investment restrictions and enhanced export controls for Chinese persons and entities related to the acquisition of industrially significant technology. The list of restrictions and controls will be announced by June 30, 2018. [Policy document][Trade remedy measures] [WTO]

May 23, 2018, The U.S. Department of Commence (DOC) announced to self-initiate a Section 232 investigation against imports of automobiles, including SUVs, vans and light trucks, and automotive parts into the United States. DOC will determine whether imported automobiles “threaten to threaten to impair the national security.” DOC said that it would publish a notice in the Federal Register announcing a hearing date and inviting comment from industry and the public to assist in the investigation. DOC now has 270 days to conduct the investigation and prepare a report on its findings for submission to the President (by February 17, 2019). [Trade remedy measures]

May 19, 2018, A joint statement released by the White House said that the United States and China had led to an agreement for China to buy more goods and services, including “meaningful increases in U.S. agriculture and energy exports.” The statement also said that both sides attach importance to intellectual property protections, agreed to encourage two-way investment and to strive to create a fair, level playing field for competition, and agreed to engage at high levels on trade and investment issues. Additionally, the statement said that the United States would send a team to China to work out the details of the agreement. However, the statement did not contain a specific target for reducing the $375 billion trade deficits. [Policy document] [Trade remedy measures].

May 14, 2018,  In a statement, the U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said that the United States, Mexico, and Canada would continue to engage in the NAFTA renegotiation. However, the Trump administration missed an informal deadline that had been set by House Speaker Paul Ryan to get a revamped NAFTA to Congress in time for lawmakers to vote on in 2018 under the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA).  Significant disagreements remained among the three countries regarding the auto rules of origin, the five-year sunset clauses and the investor-state dispute settlement provisions in the agreement. [Trade agreement]

April 30, 2018, President Trump issued two proclamations regarding his decision to impose punitive tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum based on the result of the 232 investigation. According to the proclamations, the tariff exemptions for Canada, Mexico, and the member countries of the European Union will be extended through May 31, 2018, to allow a continuation of discussions. The tariff exemptions for Argentina, Australia, and Brazil will be continued indefinitely while the U.S. works to finalize agreements in principle it has reached with these countries. And South Korea has been permanently exempted from the steel tariff based on a recent agreement reached between the two countries. However, Aluminum imports from South Korea are subject to the additional tariff on that product as of May 1. [Policy document][Trade remedy measures]

April 27, 2018, The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) released its annual Special 301 Report, which identifies trading partners that deemed “do not adequately or effectively protect and enforce intellectual property (IP) rights or otherwise deny market access to U.S. innovators and creators that rely on protection of their IP rights.” In the report, USTR identified 36 countries on the Priority Watch List or Watch List, up from 34 in 2017. China is on the Priority Watch List for the 14th consecutive year.  USTR expressed concerns about China’s “Longstanding and new IP concerns merit increased attention, including China’s coercive technology transfer practices, a range of impediments to effective IP enforcement, and widespread infringing activity—including trade secret theft, rampant online piracy, and counterfeit manufacturing.” [Policy document]

April 13, 2018, the Treasury Department released its semi-annual report on currency practices of major trading partners. Once again, the report does NOT label China a “currency manipulator.” However, the report warns that China’s economic development was going in an “increasingly non-market direction.” The report also newly added India to the currency monitoring list, which already includes China, Japan, South Korea, Germany, and Switzerland. [Policy document]

April 12, 2018, When meeting with Republicans from farm states, President Trump directed his advisors to examine if the United States could negotiate its way back into the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which he walked away in 2017. Many argue that TPP would be economic and strategic leverage with China, which isn’t a TPP member.  In his tweet on April 12, Trump said that “Would only join TPP if the deal were substantially better than the deal offered to Pres. Obama. We already have BILATERAL deals with six of the eleven nations in TPP, and are working to make a deal with the biggest of those nations, Japan, who has hit us hard on trade for years!” However, other TPP members expressed skepticism about the United States returning to the trade pact. [Trade agreement]

April 5, 2018, President Trump announced that he has instructed the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) to consider $100 billion additional retaliatory tariffs on China, in response to China’s own retaliation against the Section 301 tariffs announced in late March. In a statement released the next day, USTR confirms the proposed new measures. USTR also says that any additional tariffs proposed will be subject to a similar public comment process as the proposed tariffs announced on April 3, 2018. No tariffs will go into effect until the respective process is complete. [Policy document]

April 3, 2018, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) released the proposed list of Chinese products to be subject to the retaliatory tariff under the Section 301 action. The proposed list covers approximately 1,300 separate tariff lines and will undergo further review in a public notice and comment process, including a hearing (scheduled at around May 15, 2018). The USTR statement says it will make a final decision on whether to implement the proposed tariff action after the whole process. [Policy document]

March 30, 2018, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) released its 2018 National Trade Estimate Report, an annual report documenting foreign trade and investment barriers facing American exports around the world. This year’s report again includes technical barriers, such as product standards and testing, labeling, and certification requirements; sanitary and phytosanitary barriers, which include measures used to ensure that foods and beverages are safe for consumers and to protect animals and plants from pests and diseases; and barriers to exports of telecommunication goods and services. Further, the report cites new data localization policies and other digital practices in Indonesia, Nigeria, Vietnam and Thailand as “key barriers to digital trade,” in addition to reiterating concerns with China and others. [Policy document]

March 29. 2018, based on the results of an out-of-cycle review of the eligibility of Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda for trade preferences under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), USTR has determined that Rwanda is not making sufficient progress toward the elimination of barriers to U.S. trade and investment. The US will intend to suspend Rwanda’s duty-free treatment for all AGOA-eligible apparel products in 60 days. In March 2017, the U.S. association representing used clothing exporters, the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association (SMART), filed a case with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) challenging the policies that limit used clothing imports in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda resolved the issue in 2017. [Trade agreement]

March 28, 2018, the U.S. Trade Representative Office (USTR) announced the U.S. and South Korea have reached an agreement in principle on an improved U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS). Modifications of the KORUS will include an extended tariff phaseout schedule for U.S. tariffs on trucks, improved U.S. auto market access to South Korea, Customs improvement and pharmaceutical Reimbursements. USTR also confirms that South Korea will be exempted from the Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum. [Trade agreement]

March 26, 2018, USTR filed a WTO case against China’s discriminatory technology licensing requirements (DS542). The US claimed that China’s measures appear to be inconsistent with Articles 3, 28.1(a) and (b) and 28.2 of the Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights Agreement (TRIPS). As of June 17, 2018, the European Union, Japan, Chinese Taipei, Ukraine and Saudi Arabia have requested to join the dispute as third parties. According to the WTO rule, China shall enter into consultation with the US no later than April 26, 2018. If the dispute is not resolved by May 25, 2018 (i.e., 60 days after the request for consultation), the United States may request a WTO panel. As of June 17, 2018, the case is still in consultations. [WTO]

March 22, 2018, President Trump announced his decisions on the actions the Administration will take in response to China’s unfair trade practices covered in the USTR Section 301 investigation of China’s Acts, Policies, and Practices Related to Technology Transfer, Intellectual Property, and Innovation. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer initiated the investigation in August 2017 at the direction of President Trump. In the Memorandum he signed, President Trump directed the US Trade Representative to level tariffs on about $50 billion worth of Chinese imports. [Policy document] [Trade remedy measures]

March 22, 2018, President Trump issued an announcement, which authorized the modification of the Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum imports to suspend the tariffs for certain countries (Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, members of the European Union and South Korea) until May 1, 2018. The announcement also says that by May 1, 2018, President Trump will decide whether to continue to exempt these countries from the tariffs, based on the status of the discussions on the “long-term alternative means to address the threatened impairment to U.S. national security”[Policy document] [Trade remedy measures]

March 20, 2018President Trump requests U.S. Congress to extend the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) by three years. The current TPA (granted in 2015) applies to trade agreements reached before July 1, 2018. [Policy document]

March 18, 2018: The U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) announced its procedures for excluding products from the recently announced tariffs on steel and aluminum product imports. Only individuals or organizations using steel or aluminum articles identified in Presidential Proclamations 9704 and 9705 and engaged in business activities in the United States may submit exclusion requests. Separate exclusion requests must be submitted for each unique steel or aluminum product import. When evaluating the request, DOC will consider whether a product is produced in the United States of a satisfactory quality or in a sufficient and reasonably available amount. [Policy document] [Trade remedy measures]

March 8, 2018, President Trump issued two proclamations which intend to impose additional tariffs on steel (25%) and aluminum (10%), based on national security justifications (section 232 investigation). The tariffs proclaimed took effect on March 23, 2018. [Policy document] [Trade remedy measures]

March 6, 2018, Gary Cohn resigned as Whitehouse Chief Economic Advisor. Meanwhile, Peter Navarro was promoted to become Whitehouse chief trade advisor. [Personnel]

February 28, 2018, the US Trade Reprehensive Office (USTR) released the 2018 Trade Policy Agenda. The report outlines the Trump Administration’s four trade priorities: support national security, strengthen the U.S. economy, enforce and defend U.S. trade laws, and strengthen the multilateral trading system.  [Policy document]

January 22, 2018, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer announced that President Trump has approved recommendations to provide relief to U.S. manufacturers and impose safeguard tariffs on imported residential washing machines and solar cells and modules, based on the investigations, findings, and recommendations of the independent, bipartisan U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC).[Trade remedy measures]

January 2018, the U.S. Trade Representative Office submitted its annual report on China’s WTO Compliance to U.S. Congress. The report says that “It seems clear that the United States erred in supporting China’s entry into the WTO on terms that have proven to be ineffective in securing China’s embrace of an open, market-orientated trade regime.” [Policy document] [WTO]

From January 1, 2017, to December 31, 2017, the United States initiated 54 antidumping investigations and imposed 32 antidumping orders.  Over the same period, the United States initiated 25 countervailing duty (CVD) investigations and imposed 11 new CVD orders. Further, in 2017, the US International Trade Commission (USITC) instituted 59 new Section 337 investigations and commenced 14 ancillary proceedings, of which 7 were based on requests for modification or rescission of outstanding Commission
remedial orders. In 2017, The USITC also issued remedial orders in 16 investigations. 
[Trade remedy measures]

December 18, 2017, President Trump announces a national security strategy to advance America’s interests. The national security report claims that the Trump Administration will pursue free, fair, and reciprocal economic relationships with its trading partners. [Policy document]

October 24, 2017, the Trump Administration announced in a press release its intention to heighten its focus on enforcing the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) eligibility criteria and ensure that all countries receiving trade benefits are meeting the criteria established by Congress. This policy ensures that all GSP beneficiaries will be subject to periodic assessment of their compliance with all GSP eligibility criteria. This new effort includes a heightened focus on concluding outstanding GSP cases and a new interagency process to assess beneficiary country eligibility. [Trade agreement]

August 14, 2017, President Trump issued a memorandum directing the USTR to determine if China’s policies regarding IPR theft and forced technology requirements “may be harming American intellectual property rights, innovation, or technology development,” and thus warrant USTR action under Section 301of the 1974 Trade Act. [Policy document] [Trade remedy measures]

June 20, 2017, the U.S. Trade Representative Office announced to conduct an out-of-cycle review of Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda’s AGOA eligibility was initiated in response to a petition filed by the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association (SMART). The SMART petition asserts that a March 2016 decision by the East Africa Community (EAC), which includes Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda, to phase in a ban on imports of used clothing and footwear is imposing significant economic hardship on the U.S. used clothing industry.  [Trade agreement]

July 2017, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) called for a special session of the Joint Committee under the U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) to initiate bilateral negotiations to address serious concerns regarding the persistent, significant trade deficit with South Korea and the asymmetric benefits that the Agreement has generated. This first-ever special session of the Joint Committee was held on August 22, 2017, in Seoul, Korea.  [Trade agreement]

May 18, 2017, United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer notified Congress that President Trump intends to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Through these negotiations, the United States seeks to support higher-paying jobs in the United States and to grow the U.S. economy by improving U.S. opportunities to trade with Canada and Mexico. The letter says the renegotiation will address chapters in the NAFTA that are “outdated and do not reflect modern standards.” Specific trade agendas that the negotiation may address include digital trade, IPR protection, regulatory practices, state-owned enterprises, services, customs procedures, SPS measures, small and medium-sized enterprises as well as labor and environmental standards. As of March 2018, the three parties have conducted seven rounds of renegotiations.  [Trade agreement]

May 15, 2017, Robert Lighthizer was sworn in as the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR). Lighthizer will be one of three key leaders on trade policy in the Trump administration, working alongside Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and White House trade and industrial policy adviser Peter Navarro. Both the U.S. textile industry and the apparel industry expressed support for Lighthizer’s appointment. Lighthizer will be the principal U.S. negotiator in talks expected to start later this year to revamp the 23-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). [Personnel]

May 11, 2017, the U.S. Department of Treasury and the Department of Commerce released a joint statement announcing the initial actions of the US-China Economic Cooperation 100-Day Plan. According to the statement, both sides agree to address trade and market access issues in agriculture, financial services, investment and the energy sector. The announcement says that the two countries will begin discussing a one-year plan to further solidify actions in promoting U.S. – China economic engagement and cooperation.  Additionally, the announcement confirms that the first meeting of the U.S.-China Comprehensive Economic Dialogue will be held in the United States in the summer of 2017. [Policy document]

April 29, 2017, Trump issued an Executive Order addressing trade agreement violations and abuses. Trump reiterates that he will 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.” [Policy document]

The executive order also directs the US Trade Representative Office and the Commerce Department to conduct comprehensive performance reviews of ALL bilateral, plurilateral, and multilateral trade agreements and investment agreements to which the United States is a party within 180 days. The review will focus on:

  • Unfair treatment that is harming American workers or domestic manufacturers, farmers, or ranchers; harming US intellectual property rights; reducing the 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;

April 29, 2017, Trump issued an Executive Order announcing the establishment of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy (OTMP). The mission of the OTMP 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. The OTMP will advise Trump on innovative strategies and promote trade policies and serve as a liaison between the White House and the Department of Commerce and undertake trade-related special projects as requested by Trump. It is said that Peter Navarro, the head of the White House National Trade Council, will run the OTMP. [Policy document]

April 18, 2017, Trump issued an Executive Order on Buy American and Hire American. In the order, Trump asks all executive branches to maximize the use of goods, products, and materials produced in the United States. Trump also directs the Commerce Department and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) to assess the “impacts of all United States free trade agreements and the World Trade Organization Agreement on Government Procurement on the operation of Buy American Laws, including their impacts on the implementation of domestic procurement preferences” within 150 days of the date of the order. [Policy document]

April 13, 2017, the Treasury Department released its semi-annual report on currency practices of major trading partners. The report does NOT label China a “currency manipulator.” [Policy document]

March 31, 2017, Trump issued an Executive Order regarding enhanced collection and enforcement of U.S. anti-dumping and countervailing duty laws. In the order, Trump asks for stricter enforcement of US anti-dumping (AD) and countervailing (CVD) laws to prevent foreign manufacturers from undercutting US companies based on unfair trade practices. [Policy document]

March 31, 2017, Trump issued an Executive Order regarding the Omnibus Report on Significant Trade Deficits. The order directs the Secretary of Commerce (DOC) and the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to identify those foreign trading partners with which the United States had a significant trade deficit in goods in 2016 (note: services were NOT mentioned) within 90 days of the date of the order. Trump directs DOC and USTR to assess the major causes of the trade deficit, whether the trading partner is imposing unequal burdens on, or unfairly discriminating in fact against, the commerce of the United States, the effects of the trade relationship on the production capacity and strength of the manufacturing and defense industrial bases of the United State, the effects of the trade relationship on employment and wage growth in the United States and identify imports and trade practices that may be impairing the national security of the United States. [Policy document]

March 29, 2017, the United States Trade Representative Office submitted a letter to the Congress which lists a few objectives of the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). According to the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (TPA-2015), the White House must formally notify Congress 90 days before it formally begins renegotiating any trade agreement under the expedited (“fast track”) procedures. According to the letter, Trump will “update” NAFTA to include provisions on topics such as copyright and e-commerce that had been contained in the TPP. Trump also wants to update the rules of origin, SPS regulations on agriculture, customs and enforcement rules, technical barriers of trade, trade in services, government procurement, labor, competition policy and investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) in the renegotiation. [Policy document] [Trade agreement]

March 1, 2017, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) released the 2017 Trade Policy Agenda. The report outlines the Trump Administration’s four trade priorities: promoting U.S. sovereignty, enforcing U.S. trade laws, leveraging American economic strength to expand U.S. goods and services exports, and protecting U.S. intellectual property rights. Compared with Obama’s trade policy agenda, the Trump administration will prioritize strengthening the manufacturing base, negotiating bilateral rather than multilateral trade agreement and renegotiating or revising existing trade agreements.[Policy document] 

January 23, 2017, Trump announced to withdrawal the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Negotiations and Agreement. Trump said in the memorandum that he intended to deal directly with individual countries on a one-on-one (or bilateral) basis in negotiating future trade deals. [Policy document] [Trade agreement]