US outlines aggressive trade policies in annual report

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A range of aggressive trade policies have been unveiled by the US government as part of the president's latest Trade Policy Agenda and Annual Report.

The US government has set forth its agenda for trade during the coming months, with president Donald Trump issuing a focus on employing aggressive strategies to enhance US interests both at home and overseas.

Submitted to Congress each year by March 1st, the president's Trade Policy Agenda and Annual Report has been delivered by US trade representative Robert Lighthizer and makes for interesting reading.

What does the report say?

At the heart of the report, five key pillars have been highlighted as being the driving forces for US trade actions in the coming year. These are:

  1. Trade actions in support of US national security policy: The Trump administration has stated that it will work aggressively to "address trade imbalances, promote fair and reciprocal trade relationships, enforce US rights under existing trade agreements and work with like-minded countries to defend our common prosperity".
  2. Strengthening of the American economy: Building on existing economic momentum, with unemployment at its lowest level in 17 years and real GDP "exceeding expectations" in February, the president is confident that fair and reciprocal trade will continue to bolster the outlook for many people across the country in the coming year.
  3. Negotiating deals that work for all Americans: A primary focus for 2018 will be a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), as the Trump administration looks to "modernize and rebalance" the deal to better fall in line with US interests.
  4. Enforcement and defense of existing US trade laws: Litigation to force countries to abandon unfair practices will continue to be a tenet of US trade agreements this year, as will a focus on addressing issues of forced technology transfer, unfair licensing and intellectual property policies and practices.
  5. Strengthening of the multilateral trading system: The US hopes to continue its close ties to members of the World Trade Organization in the development of more efficient markets, more trade and enhanced wealth for all members.

What should analysts be taking away from all this?

Outlining the president's ongoing stance on trade, Mr Lighthizer stated: "President Trump is keeping his promises to the American people ... from withdrawing the United States from the flawed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), to renegotiating NAFTA, to strongly enforcing US trade laws.

"We are already seeing the results of President Trump's agenda pay off for American workers, farmers, ranchers and businesses."

It paints a picture of US trade policies that continue in line with the protectionist doctrine that has become synonymous with the Trump administration and its efforts to enhance the interests of the US people, with little regard for the rest of the world.

This latest clarification on the future of US trade deals follows President Trump's decision to withdraw the country from TPP last year, citing the potentially unfavorable impact of the deal on American jobs and businesses as his main reason for pulling out. It is a trend that has emerged time and again under the Trump administration, with a focus on placing "America first".

Indeed, earlier this month, President Trump introduced harsh new tariffs on the import of steel and aluminum into the US, with the aim of reducing the nation's large trade deficit in regards to these materials; the US is the world's largest importer of steel at present, purchasing four times as much overseas steel as it exports.

Measures that incentivize domestic production of goods and raw materials and which penalize overseas businesses and suppliers are therefore a matter of US trade policy that appears here to stay.