Trump administration officials are reporting that the president is considering a potentially harsh crackdown on trade.
Throughout the 2016 presidential race, Trump slammed China and others for allegedly unfair trade practices. In his bid to “Make America Great Again,” Trump pledged to level the playing field. Now, President Trump is reportedly preparing to make his move. This past fall, during his trip to Asia, President Trump lauded China’s ability to take advantage of their situation. Back in November, Trump noted:
“Right now, unfortunately, it is a very one-sided and unfair [relationship]. But – but – I don’t blame China. After all, who can blame a country for taking advantage of another country for the benefit of its own citizens? I give China great credit.”
Following these remarks, President Trump blamed past administrations. He further argued that the trade deficits between China and the United States were not sustainable. President Trump also pledged to fix the problem. Now, it appears that the president is going to make good on that pledge by punishing China and other alleged “cheaters” with tariffs.
When it comes to trade, the president can rely on Congress less and make more unilateral moves.
America’s trade deficit with China is to the tune of approximately $350 billion dollars per year. The Trump administration believes that this is due to unfair practices. Administration insiders are reporting that the president is considering tariffs on various Chinese goods. These tariffs would raise the price of Chinese-produced goods but would also give American companies a better chance to compete.
When it comes to trade, the president can rely on Congress less and make more unilateral moves. With Congress prepping for what promises to be a pivotal and hard-fought 2018 election season, the president may not be able to rely on the legislature this year. Given the lack of legislation passed in 2017, areas where the president can act unilaterally are likely looking more appealing for administration policymakers.
A Glance at the United States Trade Deficits
Throughout 2017, the United States suffered a trade deficit with China to the tune of $350 billion dollars. The Chinese-USA trade deficit has grown steadily over time. At the turn of the century, the United States’ deficit with China totaled less than $100 billion. However, it has grown ever since. Over the past few years, the United States has exported a bit over $100 billion dollars’ worth of goods to China while importing well over $400 billion.
While Mexico has frequently been criticized for its trade with the United States, the trade relationship between the two nations is on more even footing. The United States has been importing a bit under $300 billion from Mexico while exporting around $230 billion each year.
Given the lack of legislation passed in 2017, areas where the president can act unilaterally are likely looking more appealing for administration policymakers.
Trade with the European Union is nearly as unbalanced as it is with China, however. The United States imports roughly $400 billion from the European Union each year while exporting only about $250 billion. Trade with Canada is much more even, with each country importing and exporting roughly $270 billion to one another. Generally, US deficits total “only” $10 billion or so with Canada.
Trade is a complex policy area. Tariffs, for example, often hit end consumers the hardest in the short run. In the long run, however, unfair trade practices may hurt the national economy. Regardless of the complexities, insiders are reporting that the president intends to act quickly and with force.