US President Donald Trump is launching a campaign to pinpoint nations and goods responsible for his country’s huge trade deficit. It’s a protectionist warning shot directed at trade partners like China and Germany.Top administration officials said Donald Trump would issue a pair of executive orders on Friday “aimed at rooting out the causes and culprits” behind the US’ over $500-billion (470-billion-euro) annual trade deficit. Pundits see this as a first move to convert recent tough trade rhetoric into action.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said one of the forthcoming orders would result in analysts going “country by country and product by product” to report back to Trump within 90 days.
He said they would look for evidence of cheating, inappropriate behavior and trade deals “that have not lived up to their promises.” Also under scrutiny would be “currency misalignment and troublesome WTO constraints.”
Getting serious on duties
“Needless to say, the No. 1 source of the deficit is China,” Ross argued, before listing more than a dozen other countries that would potentially be involved, including Germany, Japan and Mexico.
Ross admitted, though, that the presence of a deficit did not necessarily mean that retaliatory or remedial action would be taken.
“It’s a little bit hard to say that someone is an evil-doer, if they’re providing a product we can’t,” he stated. “In some cases, it will simply be that they are better at making the product or can do it far cheaper than we can.”
In a second executive order, Trump is to tell the administration to look at ways the US can better recover trade duties on products that are subsidized by foreign governments or dumped on the US market.
Listing various problem areas, Peter Navarro, a top Trump trade adviser said “this is a big deal – it’s steel, chemicals, agricultural products, machinery – the whole gambit.”
On Thursday, the US Department of Commerce announced that seven foreign producers dumped certain carbon and alloy steel products in the US.
“The determination of dumping, or selling a product below its fair price, applies to imports from Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan,” it said in a statement.
Concerning Germany, irregularities were found with regard to Dillinger Hüttenwerke and the Salzgitter Group, which were accused of dumping prices.
In response to the move, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel on Friday urged Brussels to file a complaint at the World Trade Organizaion against the US over planned duties on steel plate imports from five EU member countries.
Gabriel said the US seemed prepared to give US companies “unfair competitive advantage” over European producers, even though this violated international trade legislation.
hg/jd (AFP, dpa)