Trump has embarked on a major reshuffle to US trade policy since taking office in January 2017

Trump has embarked on a major reshuffle to US trade policy since taking office in January 2017

Since President Donald Trump took office in January 2017, his administration has been busy fulfilling major campaign promises on trade policy – much to the concern of US fashion brands and apparel retailers. To keep abreast of developments, Dr Sheng Lu, associate professor in the Department of Fashion and Apparel Studies at the University of Delaware, has compiled a timeline of all the key milestones.

23 August 2018 – Second batch of Section 301 action takes effect
According to US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), additional import duties for Chinese goods covered by the Section 301 action officially took effect after 12:01am. The new duties impact 279 lines of products that cover approximately $16bn worth of imports from China. Meanwhile, US companies can request to exclude a particular product from the additional tariffs by following the procedure set out in the Federal Register notice

On the same day, China said it immediately put its own retaliatory tariffs on approximately $16bn of 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 23 August. [Policy document] [Trade remedy measures] [WTO]

7 August 2018 – Final list of second batch of Section 301 action released
The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) released the final list of $16bn worth of imports from China that will be subject to a 25% additional tariff as part of the US Section 301 action against China's unfair trade practices. According to USTR, the list contains 279 of the original 284 tariff lines on a list proposed on 15 June 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. The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will begin to collect the additional duties on the Chinese imports on 23 August . In response, China's Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) also announced plans to impose a 25% additional tariff on $16bn US exports to China (333 tariff lines), effective 23 August 2018. [Policy document] [Trade remedy measures]

3 August 2018 – USTR reviews Turkey's eligibility for GSP
The Office of the US Trade Representative announced it would review Turkey's eligibility for the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) programme that grants duty-free access to the US market. USTR said 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 US goods in response to the Section 232 tariffs imposed by the US in March 2018. The United States imported $1.66bn in 2017 from Turkey under the GSP scheme, representing 17.7% of total US imports from Turkey. The leading GSP import categories were vehicles and vehicle parts, jewellery and precious metals, and stone articles. [Trade agreement]

1 August 2018 – Section 301 tariff war escalates 
US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer released a statement and indicated that President Trump is considering increasing the proposed additional tariff from 10% to 25% on $200bn worth of US imports from China. The $200 billion product list, released by USTR on 20 July, covers textiles, travel goods, hats, specialty apparel, accessories and machinery. In the statement, Lighthizer also said the close of the written comment period for the proposed additional tariffs had been extended from 30 August to 5 September. Additionally, Lighthizer once again urged China "to stop its unfair practices, open its market, and engage in true market competition," and said 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]

30 July 2018 – Rwanda's AGOA benefits for apparel suspended
In a proclamation released by the White House, President Trump suspended 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-favoured-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 $1.5m worth of apparel from Rwanda, which accounted for only 3% of Rwanda's total exports to the United States. Rwanda remains eligible to receive non-apparel benefits available under AGOA. [Policy document] [Trade agreement]

27 July 2018 – US and EU to begin trade talks
After his meeting with European Commission President Juncker, President Trump announced 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 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 US and the EU will immediately set up an Executive Working Group for the negotiation. Discussions will also include topics such as the United States steel and aluminum tariffs and EU retaliatory tariffs. [Policy document] [Trade agreement] [WTO]

26 July 2018 – US challenges China's trade model at the WTO
At the World Trade Organization (WTO) General Council meeting, the US 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 raised concerns that the Chinese government and the Communist Party continue to control or otherwise influence the price of key factors of production, including land, labour, 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 the 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]

24 July 2018 – USDA provides financial aid to farmers affected by trade
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced plans to provide up to $12 billion financial aid to US farmers to shield them from the negative impacts of the trade war between the United States and its trading partners. USDA said the $12bn assistance is in line with the estimated $11bn impact of the "unjustified" retaliatory tariffs on US agricultural goods and the aid will help agricultural producers to meet the costs of disrupted markets. [Policy document] [Trade remedy measures]

16 July 2018 – New WTO case against retaliation on US exports
According to the Office of the US 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 imposed by each WTO Member in response to President Trump's Section 232 actions on trade in aluminium and steel. [Trade remedy measures] [WTO]

12 July 2018 – Potential US-AGOA model free trade agreement
Addressing the 2018 US-Saharan Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum (AGOA Forum), US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said the Trump administration was interested in negotiating a model free trade agreement with a sub-Saharan African country. According to Lighthizer, there would be three core objectives for the negotiation: (1) pursue a bilateral agreement with a willing partner; (2) ensure the agreement is crafted as a model that can be rolled out to other willing partners in sub-Saharan Africa in the future; and (3) ensure the model agreement will reinforce regional and continental integration in Africa. However, Lighthizer stressed: "To be clear, the United States is not abandoning AGOA for either the short term or the long term." Of concern to most US fashion brands and apparel retailers is that while AGOA adopts the most liberal "third country fabric" rules of origin, almost all US free trade agreements adopt the strict "yarn-forward" rules. [Trade agreement]

10 July 2018 – New Section 301 action against $200bn Chinese goods
The USTR announced it would impose a 10% additional tariff on another $200bn 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 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 17 August 2018, host a public hearing 20-23 August 2018 and accept post-hearing rebuttal comments until 30 August 2018. [Policy document] [Trade remedy measures]

6 July 2018 – Exclusion process for the proposed Section 301 action against China
The USTR released the product exclusion process for Chinese products subject to Section 301 tariffs. USTR said that on request, the exclusion may cover a particular product within a subheading, but not the tariff subheading as a whole. When reviewing the request, 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 US interests, and whether the particular product is strategically important or related to Chinese industrial programs including 'Made in China 2025'." The public has 90 days to file a request for a product exclusion; the request period will end on 9 October 2018. Exclusions will be effective for one year upon the publication of the exclusion determination in the Federal Register, and will apply retroactively to 6 July 2018. [Policy document] [Trade remedy measures]

6 July 2018 – Section 301 action against $34bn Chinese goods takes effect
According to  US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the additional import duties for Chinese goods covered by the Section 301 action officially take effect, covering 818 lines of products worth around $34 billion in imports from China. On the same day, China 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 6 July. [Policy document] [Trade remedy measures][WTO]

1 July 2018 – Trade promotion authority renewed for three more years
The USTR said the Trump Administration received an extension of Trade Promotion Authority ("fast track") from US Congress for three more years. [Trade Agreement] [Policy document]

29 June 2018 – Biennial AGOA implementation report released
The USTR released the 2018 Biennial Report on the Implementation of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which is the second since 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]

19 June 2018 – Newly proposed Section 301 action
President Trump said he had directed the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to identify $200bn worth of Chinese goods for additional tariffs at a rate of 10% in response to China's action to raise tariffs on $50bn worth of United States exports. The announcement said that after the legal process is complete, these tariffs would go into effect if China refused to change its practices and insisted on going forward with the new tariffs it recently announced. Trump also threatened to pursue additional tariffs on another $200bn of goods, should China increase its tariffs yet again. Because the value of US imports from China totalled $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]

19 June 2018 – New China threat report
The White House Office of Trade & Manufacturing Policy (OTMP) released a report claiming China's policies threaten the economic and national security of the United States. The report listed more than 50 acts, policies, and practices used by China 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 provided no specific policy recommendation, it suggested China's acts, policies, and practices of economic aggression targeting the world's technologies and IP threaten not only the US economy but also the global innovation system as a whole, particularly given the size of China's economy. [Policy document]

15 June 2018 – Additional retaliatory tariffs against China
The Trump Administration announced it would impose a 25% punitive tariff on a list of Chinese goods following its section 301 investigation, which targeted China's unfair trade practices related to the forced transfer of American technology and intellectual property. The additional duty will first apply to 818 product lines on 6 July 2018, covering around $34bn worth of imports from China – with a second set of 284 proposed tariff lines to follow shortly covering another $16bn worth of imports from China.

The total 1,102 tariff lines targeted by USTR focus on products from industrial sectors that contribute to or benefit from the 'Made in China 2025' industrial policy, 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 most of the textile machinery initially on the retaliation product list outlined in April 2018.

In response to the US action, China's Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) quickly proposed countermeasures, including a 25% punitive tariff on around $34bn worth of US soybean, autos, and fruits effective 6 July 2018. China is also ready to impose the punitive tariff on another list of products, covering $16bn worth of medical device, chemicals and energy imports from the US. [Policy document] [Trade remedy measures]

4 June 2018 – US-China trade talk
US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross concluded a two-day trade negotiation with China in Beijing. A White House statement said 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 said the delegation will "receive guidance on the path forward." [Policy document] [Trade remedy measures]

31 May 2018 – Section 232 action on steel
President Trump signed two proclamations to impose Section 232 punitive tariffs on steel (25% ad valorem tariff) and aluminium (10% ad valorem tariff) imports from Mexico, Canada and the European Union as of 1 June 2018. The punitive tariffs for these three countries and regions had been suspended since March 2018 because of the ongoing NAFTA renegotiation and trade talks. After President Trump's announcement, the Mexican government said it would retaliate with comparable penalties on US products, including lamps, pork, fruit, cheese and flat steel. Similarly, Canada said it would place tariffs on up to CAD16bn (US$12.4bn) worth of American goods, including steel and aluminium. Canada also filed a case against the US tariff action at the World Trade Organization (WTO). Additionally, the EU Commission said it would launch legal proceedings against the US at the WTO and "rebalance" the situation by targeting a list of US products with additional duties. This list includes American-made clothing (such as blue jeans, T-shirts) and footwear. [Policy document] [Trade remedy measures]

29 May 2018 – Additional retaliatory tariffs against China
President Trump suddenly announced the US would impose a 25% tariff on $50bn of goods imported from China containing industrially significant technology, including those related to the 'Made in China 2025' programme, with the final list of imports due by 15 June. The US Trade Representative Office (USTR) would also continue the WTO dispute settlement against China, which was originally initiated in March to address China's discriminatory technology licensing requirements. Additionally, the US will implement investment restrictions and enhanced export controls for Chinese persons and entities related to the acquisition of industrially significant technology, with a list due to be revealed by 30 June 2018. [Policy document] [Trade remedy measures]

23 May 2018 – New Section 232 investigation on imports of autos
The US Department of Commerce (DOC) self-initiated a Section 232 investigation against imports of automobiles and automotive parts into the United States. DOC will determine whether imported automobiles "threaten to threaten to impair the national security." DOC also said it would publish a notice in the Federal Register inviting comment from industry and the public to assist in the investigation. DOC has 270 days to conduct the investigation and prepare a report on its findings for submission to the President by 17 February 2019. [Trade remedy measures]

19 May 2018 – US-China trade talk
A joint statement released by the White House said China had agreed to buy more goods and services, including "meaningful increases in US agriculture and energy exports." The statement also said both sides attached importance to intellectual property protections, agreed to encourage two-way investment, would create a fair, level playing field for competition, and agreed to engage at high levels on trade and investment issues. The statement also said the US would send a team to China to work out the details of the agreement. But it did not contain a specific target for reducing the $375bn trade deficit. [Policy document] [Trade remedy measures]

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

30 April 2018 – Section 232 action on steel and aluminium
President Trump issued two proclamations regarding his decision to impose punitive tariffs on imports of steel and aluminium based on the result of the 232 investigation. The tariff exemptions for Canada, Mexico and EU member countries will be extended through 31 May 2018, to allow a continuation of discussions. The tariff exemptions for Argentina, Australia and Brazil will be continued indefinitely while the US works to finalise 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, aluminium imports from South Korea are subject to the additional tariff as of 1 May 2018. [Policy document] [Trade remedy measures]

27 April 2018 – 2018 special 301 report
The annual Special 301 Report was released by the USTR, identifying trading partners that "do not adequately or effectively protect and enforce intellectual property (IP) rights or otherwise deny market access to US innovators and creators that rely on protection of their IP rights." The report identifies 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 that China's "longstanding and new IP concerns merit increased attention, including China's coercive technology transfer practices, range of impediments to effective IP enforcement, and widespread infringing activity – including trade secret theft, rampant online piracy, and counterfeit manufacturing." [Policy document]

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

12 April 2018 – US may rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership
At a meeting with Republicans from farm states, President Trump directed his advisors to examine if the US could negotiate its way back into the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – which he walked away from in 2017. Many argue TPP would offer economic and strategic leverage with China, which isn't a TPP member. In a tweet on 12 April, Trump said: "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 scepticism about the United States returning to the trade pact. [Trade agreement]

5 April 2018 – Additional retaliatory tariffs against China
President Trump instructed the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) to consider $100bn in additional retaliatory tariffs against China, in response to China's own retaliation against the Section 301 tariffs announced in late March. Confirming the proposed new measures, USTR said any additional tariffs would be subject to the same public comment process as those proposed on 3 April 2018. No tariffs would go into effect until the respective process was complete. [Policy document]

3 April 2018 – Retaliatory tariffs against China
USTR released a proposed list of Chinese products to be subject to retaliatory tariffs under the Section 301 action. The list covered approximately 1,300 separate tariff lines and would undergo further review in a public notice and comment process, including a hearing (scheduled around 15 May 2018). The USTR said it would make a final decision on whether to implement the tariff action after the whole process. [Policy document]

30 March 2018 – 2018 National Trade Estimate Report
The 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 included technical barriers, such as product standards and testing, labelling 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 cited new data localisation 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]

29 March 2018 – Rwanda AGOA eligibility suspended
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 determined Rwanda was not making sufficient progress towards eliminating barriers to US trade and investment. The US will suspend Rwanda's duty-free treatment for all AGOA-eligible apparel products in 60 days. In March 2017, the US association representing used clothing exporters, the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association (SMART), filed a case with the USTR challenging policies that limit used clothing imports in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda resolved the issue in 2017. [Trade agreement]

28 March 2018 – KORUS modifications
The USTR announced the US and South Korea had reached an agreement in principle on an improved US-South Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS). Modifications include an extended phaseout schedule for US tariffs on trucks, improved US auto market access to South Korea, Customs improvement and pharmaceutical reimbursements. The USTR also confirmed South Korea will be exempted from Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminium. [Trade agreement]

26 March 2018 – WTO case against China technology licensing
USTR filed a WTO case against China's discriminatory technology licensing requirements (DS542). The US claimed China's measures appeared inconsistent with Articles 3, 28.1(a) and (b) and 28.2 of the Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights Agreement (TRIPS). As of 8 April 2018, the European Union, Japan, Ukraine and Saudi Arabia have requested to join the dispute as third parties. According to the WTO rule, China will enter into consultation with the US no later than 26 April 2018. If the dispute is not resolved by 25 May 2018 (60 days after the request for consultation), the US may request a WTO panel. [WTO]

22 March 2018 – Section 301 action against China 
President Trump announced the actions the administration would take in response to China's unfair trade practices covered in the Section 301 investigation of China's Acts, Policies, and Practices Related to Technology Transfer, Intellectual Property, and Innovation. US 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 $50bn worth of Chinese imports. [Policy document] [Trade remedy measures]

22 March 2018 – Some Section 232 tariffs suspended
President Trump authorised the modification of Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminium imports to suspend the tariffs for certain countries (including Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, members of the European Union and South Korea) until 1 May 2018. The announcement also said that by 1 May 2018, President Trump would 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 US national security." [Policy document][Trade remedy measures]

20 March 2018 – TPA extension
President Trump requested US Congress extend Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) by three years. The current TPA (granted in 2015) applies to trade agreements reached before 1 July 2018. [Policy document]

8 March 2018 – Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminium
President Trump issued two proclamations to impose additional tariffs on steel (25% tariff rate) and aluminium (10% tariff rate), based on national security justifications (Section 232 investigation). The tariffs took effect on 23 March 2018. [Policy document] [Trade remedy measures]

6 March 2018 – Personnel changes
Gary Cohn resigned as White House chief economic advisor. Meanwhile, Peter Navarro was promoted to become the White House chief trade advisor. [Personnel]

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

22 January 2018 – Safeguard tariffs
US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer announced that President Trump had approved recommendations to provide relief to US 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 US International Trade Commission (USITC). [Trade remedy measures]

15 January 2018 – China WTO Compliance report
The US Trade Representative Office submitted its annual report on China's WTO Compliance to US Congress. The report said: "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]

1 January to 31 December 2017 – Trade remedy measures
During this time 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]

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

24 October 2017 – Generalized System of Preferences (GSP)
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 new effort includes a heightened focus on concluding outstanding GSP cases and a new interagency process to assess beneficiary country eligibility. [Trade agreement]

14 August 2017 – China's IPR theft
 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 301 of the 1974 Trade Act. [Policy document] [Trade remedy measures]

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

20 June 2017 – AGOA eligibility
The USTR announced it would conduct an out-of-cycle review of the AGOA eligibility of Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, initiated in response to a petition filed by the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association (SMART). The SMART petition asserted 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 was imposing significant economic hardship on the US used clothing industry. [Trade agreement]

18 May 2017 – NAFTA renegotiation
USTR Robert Lighthizer notified Congress of President Trump's intention to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to support higher-paying jobs in the US and grow the US economy by improving opportunities to trade with Canada and Mexico. The letter said the renegotiation would address chapters in the NAFTA that are "outdated and do not reflect modern standards" – including digital trade, IPR protection, regulatory practices, state-owned enterprises, services, customs procedures, SPS measures, small and medium-sized enterprises as well as labour and environmental standards. As of March 2018, the three parties have conducted seven rounds of renegotiations. [Trade agreement]

15 May 2017 – New US Trade Representative
Robert Lighthizer was sworn in as US Trade Representative (USTR), 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 US textile and apparel industries expressed support for the appointment of Lighthizer, the principal US negotiator in talks to revamp the 23-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). [Personnel]

11 May 2017 – US-China Economic Cooperation?
The US 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 agreed to address trade and market access issues in agriculture, financial services, investment and the energy sector. The announcement said the two countries would begin discussing a one-year plan to further solidify actions in promoting US - China economic engagement and cooperation. Additionally, it confirmed the first meeting of the US-China Comprehensive Economic Dialogue would be held in the US in summer 2017. [Policy document]

29 April 2017 – Executive Order on trade
Trump issued an Executive Order addressing trade agreement violations and abuses. Trump reiterated that he would renegotiate or terminate ANY existing trade agreementinvestment 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." The executive order also directed the US Trade Representative Office and the Commerce Department to conduct comprehensive performance reviews within 180 days of ALL bilateral, plurilateral, and multilateral trade agreements and investment agreements to which the United States is a party. The review would focus on

  • Unfair treatment 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 programme had failed with regard to such factors as predicted new jobs created, favourable effects on the trade balance, expanded market access, lowered trade barriers, or increased United States exports. [Policy document]

29 April 2017 – Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy
Trump issued an Executive Order establishing the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy (OTMP) 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 defence industrial bases. The OTMP would 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. Peter Navarro, head of the White House National Trade Council, would run the OTMP. [Policy document]

18 April 2017 – Executive Order on Buy American
Trump issued an Executive Order on Buy American and Hire American. In the order, Trump asked all executive branches to maximise the use of goods, products, and materials produced in the United States. Trump also directed the Commerce Department and the 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]

13 April 2017 – Currency practices
The Treasury Department released its semi-annual report on currency practices of major trading partners. The report did NOT label China a "currency manipulator." [Policy document]

31 March 2017 – Executive Order on anti-dumping and countervailing duty
Trump issued an Executive Order regarding enhanced collection and enforcement of US anti-dumping and countervailing duty laws. In the order, Trump asked 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]

31 March 2017 – Executive Order on trade deficits
Trump issued an Executive Order regarding the Omnibus Report on Significant Trade Deficits. The order directed the Secretary of Commerce (DOC) and the USTR to identify 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 directed DOC and USTR to assess the major causes of the trade deficit, whether the trading partner was imposing unequal burdens on (or unfairly discriminating against) the US, the effects of the trade relationship on the production capacity and strength of the US manufacturing and defence industrial bases, the effects of the trade relationship on employment and wage growth, and identify imports and trade practices that may be impairing US national security. [Policy document]

29 March 2017 – NAFTA renegotiation objectives
The USTR submitted a letter to Congress listing 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 would "update" NAFTA to include provisions on topics such as copyright and e-commerce that had been contained in the TPP. Trump also wanted to update the rules of origin, SPS regulations on agriculture, customs and enforcement rules, technical barriers to trade, trade in services, government procurement, labour, competition policy and investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS). [Policy document] [Trade agreement]

1 March 2017 – 2017 Trade Policy Agenda
The US Trade Reprehensive Office (USTR) released the 2017 Trade Policy Agenda. The report outlined the Trump Administration's four trade priorities: promoting US sovereignty, enforcing US trade laws, leveraging American economic strength to expand US goods and services exports, and protecting US intellectual property rights. Compared with Obama's trade policy agenda, the Trump administration would prioritise strengthening the manufacturing base, negotiating bilateral rather than multilateral trade agreements, and renegotiating or revising existing trade agreements. [Policy document] 

23 January 2017 – US withdrawal from TPP
Trump announced the US withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations and agreement, saying that he instead intended to deal directly with individual countries on a one-on-one (or bilateral) basis in negotiating future trade deals. [Policy document] [Trade agreement]