President Trump signed two executive orders Friday aimed at cracking down on foreign competitors’ unfair trade practices, and pledged that his actions are setting the stage for a “great revival” of American manufacturing.
“From now on, those who break the rules will face the consequences,” Mr. Trump said as he signed the documents at the White House. “Under my administration, the theft of American prosperity will end.”
The first executive order aims to ensure that duties are fully collected when imposed on foreign importers who cheat.
“They are cheaters,” the president said forcefully.
The second order directs Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and the U.S. Trade Representative to compile a report within 90 days to identify a broad range of trade abuses, country by country and product by product.
Mr. Trump referred to his campaign stops in cities and towns across America that he said had been “devastated by unfair trade policies.” He recalled seeing “shuttered factories” and spending time with laid-off factory workers.
The “jobs and wealth have been stripped from our country,” he said.
“Thousands of factories have been stolen from our country,” the president said, adding that these “voiceless Americans now have a voice in the White House.”
Mr. Ross said the report “will form the basis for decision making by the administration.”
The U.S. has its biggest trade deficits with China, $347 billion; Japan $69 billion; Germany, $65 billion; and Mexico, $63 billion.
While officials didn’t say what action Mr. Trump might take after the report is completed, Mr. Ross indicated it would provide an argument for raising tariffs.
“The U.S. has the lowest tariff rates and the lowest non-tariff barriers of any developed country,” Mr. Ross said. “While many countries talk about free trade, they are actually are far more protectionist than we are. “
The get-tough approach to trade comes less than a week before Mr. Trump is scheduled to host Chinese President Xi Jinping at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. During the presidential campaign, Mr. Trump singled out China as the primary perpetrator of unfair trade practices, including currency manipulation.
Mr. Trump said his meeting with Mr. Xi “will be a very difficult one in that we can no longer have massive trade deficits and job losses.”
“American companies must be prepared to look at other alternatives,” he said on Twitter.