Before there was a WTO, the United States developed the tools to take matters into its own hands, using a trade tool known as Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974. It hasn’t been used much since 1995 when the WTO’s dispute settlement procedures came into effect, but the Trump Administration appears to be ready to dust it off to maximize leverage in its trade negotiations with China.
Since 1947, the global trade rules have contained a “national security exception.” WTO members operate on the presumption that their fellow members will exercise the exception rarely and in good faith.
While the 2016 presidential election was not about trade per se, it is clear that new U.S. political leadership and many in the American public would like to look at trade differently – a change in perspective, if you will – including who we do trade deals with, whether trade deficits or surpluses matter, and whether Congress or the Administration is in the driver’s seat on trade.
Helping one set of manufacturing workers can put others in harm’s way. For example, anti-dumping duties on primary metals might help 400,000 metal workers, but it also disadvantages 6 million other manufacturing workers, whose families and communities equally value their jobs.
If the Trump Administration is serious about applying a 20 percent tariff on goods from Mexico to pay for new construction on a wall along the United States and Mexico, it’s the United States that will pay, not Mexico. And the bill could come in as much as 900% above cost.
President-elect Donald Trump has variously proclaimed that he would “rip up” existing trade agreements, renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and impose a 35 percent tariff on imports from Mexico and a 45 percent tariff on imports from China.
Mr. Trump ran on a platform that rejects the notion that trade agreements have worked to America’s favor. He promised some major reversals of trade policies. Will he dump trade?