The Trump Administration has issued its 2019 trade policy agenda in a several hundred page report to the Congress. The report covers a broad range of trade topics, many of which have been at the forefront of the Administration’s agenda for the past couple of years. These include renegotiating the NAFTA into the USMCA, WTO reform, use of legal tools such as Sections 232 and 301 to impose tariffs on a variety of global imports, and robust enforcement of trade remedies laws.
According to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), the trade policy agenda underscores three main points. First, the agenda notes that this Administration inherited a “deeply flawed global trading system” that it is striving to improve. The agenda calls out the primary targets of the Administration’s trade efforts to date: overhauling the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) into the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the overreach of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Appellate Body, and unfair trade practices from U.S. trading partners, such as China’s non-market policies.
Second, the Administration continues efforts to improve domestic trade policies to better serve U.S. workers. While the agenda reviews a number of the Administration’s recent achievements, it highlights that a primary goal of 2019 is to obtain Congressional approval of the USMCA, which the President has touted as better serving the interests of U.S. workers, farmers, and businesses than NAFTA. Trade issues with China are unsurprisingly a significant focus, with USTR highlighting its negotiations with China to eliminate a range of unfair trade policies and practices. The Administration’s concern that the WTO Appellate Body’s decisions are overreaching is well-known, and the agenda promises a commitment to WTO reform efforts.
Third, the Administration intends to pursue new trade deals and to continue its enforcement of current trade laws. Here, the Administration highlights its focus on efforts to preserve U.S. national security and national defense, a nod to its current use of Sections 232 and 301 to impose tariffs on a broad range of global imports. The agenda also notes USTR’s intent to pursue new trade deals with Japan, the European Union, and the United Kingdom, as well as to concentrate on trade and investment with Kenya.
In sum, the 2019 agenda focuses on the ongoing goals of the Administration to improve conditions for American workers, to strictly enforce U.S. trade laws, and to encourage U.S. economic growth. We continue to monitor the Administration’s efforts and initiatives as they unfold in 2019. Please contact the international trade group with any questions.