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The Trump administration’s long-awaited initiative to renegotiate NAFTA could get underway as early as mid-August now that Robert Lighthizer has been confirmed and sworn in as U.S. trade representative.
Secretary Wilbur Ross said the Department of Commerce is considering whether to initiate a section 232 national security investigation of imported semiconductors because of their “huge defense implications” and the fact that China is ramping up its domestic production, according to a Reuters article.
The Senate voted 82-14 May 11 to confirm Robert Lighthizer as U.S. trade representative. Lighthizer, a long-time trade attorney who served as deputy USTR under President Reagan, is expected to lead a more enforcement-oriented approach to trade policy under the Trump administration.
A Food and Drug Administration rule requiring food importers to verify that their shipments meet U.S. safety standards will start taking effect May 30. Noncompliant importers risk supply chain disruptions, delays in entry processing, and possibly the exclusion of their products from the U.S. marketplace.
There are now more than 400 bilateral and regional PTAs worldwide, the ICC said, and new ones increasingly overlap existing ones, resulting in diverging rules of origin regulations and procedures that are becoming a trade barrier along the entire supply chain. Setting common standards and procedures for cross-border transactions aims to lower costs and increase predictability, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises.
The Canadian government is considering measures that could be imposed in response to what it deems “unfair and punitive” U.S. antidumping duties on imports of softwood lumber from Canada. However, both sides say they are willing to pursue a negotiated settlement like the one that put the long-running dispute on hold for a decade before expiring 18 months ago.
A delay in confirming Robert Lighthizer as the next U.S. trade representative appears to be holding up the Trump administration’s efforts to launch talks on renegotiating NAFTA. Lighthizer was approved by the Senate Finance Committee April 24 but it is unclear when the full Senate might act.
The U.S. monthly trade deficit in goods and services edged down 0.2 percent in March to $43.7 billion a month after a 9.5 percent decrease. Exports slipped 0.9 percent to $191.0 billion while imports lost 0.7 percent to $234.7 billion. Press sources note that so far this year the overall U.S. trade deficit is up by more than seven percent from 2016.
Ross also signaled that the U.S. intends to reshape NAFTA into separate bilateral agreements with Canada and Mexico “that match and are symmetrical.”
Comments on the proposed revocations and modifications are due no later than June 2 and the final revocations and modifications will be effective for goods entered or withdrawn from warehouse for consumption on or after July 3.
President Trump has issued an executive order directing new performance reviews of U.S. trade and investment agreements and World Trade Organization rules. These reviews will help guide U.S. trade policy and trade negotiations and could lead to the renegotiation or termination of existing agreements or rules.
The Trump administration’s first annual report on intellectual property rights-related trade barriers adopts the more enforcement-oriented tone that has marked much of the administration’s trade actions to date. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative’s annual Special 301 report on the adequacy and effectiveness of U.S. trading partners’ IPR protection and enforcement lists 34 trading partners as meriting particular concern.
President Trump has informed the leaders of Canada and Mexico that he has “agreed not to terminate NAFTA at this time,” according to a White House statement. The leaders also “agreed to proceed swiftly … to enable the renegotiation of the NAFTA deal to the benefit of all three countries.”
Press reports indicate that the Department of Commerce may announce April 27 the self-initiation of a section 232 investigation to determine whether imports of foreign-made aluminum are harming U.S. national security. In addition, President Trump is reportedly planning to issue a memorandum directing the DOC to expedite that investigation.
The World Trade Organization has set $163.23 million as the amount of annual trade sanctions Mexico may seek to impose against the U.S. in their long-running dispute over dolphin-safe tuna labeling. However, the retaliation threat could be short-lived if a separate pending decision finds that the U.S. has come into compliance with WTO rules.