The fundamental goal of any trade agreement is to promote and undergird government adherence to rule of law, which in turn enables private economic activity to thrive. When coupled with commitments to market access, individuals and companies are free to do business anywhere in the world.
The current administration’s use of Section 232 to impose trade-restrictive measures on imports of steel and aluminum has become the source of increasing domestic discontent among steel-using industries, farmers who are the target of retaliatory tariffs, and Members of Congress who are reconsidering having delegated powers over trade to the President. It has also put WTO dispute settlement to an unwelcome test.
Well-known razor makers like Boston-based Gillette already face strong headwinds from changing consumer habits: fewer men are shaving as regularly now that beards are more in fashion. Online subscription services like Dollar Shave Club or Harry’s are also putting pressure on prices and profit margins. Now, razor makers are dealing with the problem of tariffs on the specialized steel they import.
It’s not so easy to find paint-by-number kits these days outside of the Smithsonian Museum of American History, though there’s a limited selection on Amazon. Who makes the brushes, canvases, and little tubs of plastic acrylic paints? Half of the world’s brushes and painting canvases are shipped from China. Here’s a story about how digging into the source of your favorite hobby materials can lead you on a tale of unfair trade.
A May 17 NAFTA deadline has been in the news. That’s because Congressional leaders have advised the Trump administration that the deal needs to get done soon in order to have a vote on NAFTA 2.0 in this Congress under so-called “fast track” voting procedures. There are all sorts of steps on the timeline built into the Trade Promotion Authority legislation (TPA) for expedited approval of trade agreements. Here’s a short version of the history, context, and essentials of how it all works.
Here’s your annotated guide to the timeline and procedures for “fast track” approvals of U.S. trade deals by Congress.
In 2016, the United States imported $1.3 billion worth of natural rubber, second only to China as the world’s largest importer. But America’s largest rubber band manufacturer has asked U.S. trade agencies to investigate whether China, Thailand, and Sri Lanka are subsidizing their producers, enabling them to sell unfairly cheap rubber bands.
The two Section 201 cases that the president will shortly decide—solar panels and washing machines—are good illustrations of how much the trade landscape has changed in recent years and how unexpectedly complicated these decisions have become.
It would be a guessing game to try to predict what the president might do specifically on trade in 2018. Whatever he decides, there are trends morphing the trading system even as the U.S. Government works to figure out its role in shaping it.