In his first address since his electoral victory speech, President-elect Donald Trump discussed what policies he would pursue immediately upon taking office.
And the first issue mentioned in the more than two-and-a-half minute video was trade.
“I’m going to issue a notification of intent to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a potential disaster for our country,” Trump said. “Instead, we will negotiate fair bilateral trade deals that bring jobs and industry back onto American shores.”
Throughout his campaign, Trump made free-trade deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Trans-Pacific Partnership core to his message.
He insisted that he would make moves to renegotiate US trade deals as soon as he took office, aiming to bring offshore jobs back into the country. He took a hardline, protectionist stance, even going as far to say on the trail that TPP amounted to “the rape of our country.”
And even as the plan seen early backlash from some in Trump’s own party — Sen. John McCain of Arizona said Tuesday that he was “disappointed” Trump intends to withdraw from the TPP — Trump has plowed ahead in his unorthodox play to reshape the nation’s trade policy.
Trump’s trade-related transition is being led by senior trade adviser and former Nucor CEO Dan DiMicco. A source told Business Insider that DiMicco is under consideration to be the next US trade representative — the top trade official in the administration.
The source, who requested anonymity because they are not authorised to speak publicly, said Trump is also willing to consider tough-on-trade Democrats — such as Rep. Dan Lipinski of Illinois — for Cabinet other administration posts, adding that his team is looking to go “five deep” with people who agree with Trump’s platform.
But it has proven difficult to find resumes that match.
Last week, a Trump transition team trade memo was provided to CNN. It contained an outline for trade policy within a Trump administration’s first 200 days, including killing the current TPP, renegotiating or withdrawing from NAFTA, stopping “unfair imports,” ending “unfair trade practices,” pursuing bilateral trade deals, and retaining and returning manufacturing jobs.
That final bit focused on lowering the corporate tax rate and slashing regulations on businesses and the energy sector.
“The Trump trade plan breaks with the globalist wings of both the Republican and Democratic parties,” the document read. “The Trump administration will reverse decades of conciliatory trade policy. New trade agreements will be negotiated that provide for the interests of US workers and companies first.”
The plan provides benchmarks for Trump’s first, 100th, and 200th days in office. They begin with starting his NAFTA reform immediately, ordering the Department of Commerce and International Trade Commission to begin production of a study on the ramifications of withdrawal from the treaty, and what would be required through legislation to do so.
Trump would also instruct the US trade representative to notify Mexico and Canada of the administration’s intention to propose amendments to the deal, which, as CNN reported, “could include measures on currency manipulation, lumber, country-of-origin labelling and environmental and safety standards.”
But an order was included that demanded such a report pay “extra consideration to the effects such a policy change may have on the middle class, manufacturing and service sector workers, and foreign direct investment into the United States.”
In addition, right off the bat, Trump would submit legislation related to currency manipulation and review if trading partners engage in “harmful” practices. On Day 100, Trump would target China, attempting a crack down on the country by seeing if they could be labelled a currency manipulator and through bilateral trade negotiations.
On Day 200, Trump would consider formally withdrawing from NAFTA, although the memo notes there could be negative consequences of doing so.
Robert Shapiro, a professor in the Columbia University department of political science, told Business Insider that the memo showed “Trump is doing what he said he wanted to do.”
But what the memo does not outline, and what Shapiro said is “really very hard to say,” is what actually produces a “better deal” for the US.
“The pieces of it that he emphasised in the campaign are things that affected jobs in the US, and what primarily affected jobs in the US is manufacturing,” he said.
“The real importance of the agreement that have to do with labour, with the environment, he doesn’t talk about. He’s going to have to be held accountable for anything he renegotiates and has any effect on jobs. A lot of the calculations that go into jobs and where jobs go have more to do with markets and genuine comparative advantage … it’s not clear that he can make jobs come back depending on what he does in these agreements.”
The Columbia professor said there needs to be “more appreciation of facts and reality” on the subject, adding that the majority of jobs that went abroad may “have gone abroad anyway regardless of these agreements.” And even doing a better deal with China to return manufacturing jobs would provide an uncertain result, Shapiro said, since “now, jobs are leaving China for other countries for the same reasons they left here.”
One message he thought was encouraging to see in the memo was the discussion of weighing the potential benefits and setbacks of some of the moves.
“We haven’t heard a good discussion about what the pros and cons are in terms of what are the consequences, in terms of what negative effects terminating the agreements would have,” he said. “There is definitely no discussion of that at all.”
Sue Welch, the CEO of Bamboo Rose, a digital business-to-business marketplace for product and supply chain management, said the moves discussed in the memo, particularly regarding NAFTA, would crush the economy.
“What about the other 14 to 15 million Americans dependent on NAFTA for their livelihood?” she said. “You have to balance.”
Welch said it would have a negative effect on labour in the US, would be damaging to the supply chains between the US, Canada, and Mexico, and would cause prices to rise across the board, particularly at giants such as Walmart.
The entire blueprint, she said, would be “kind of a lose-lose situation.”