Donald Trump just might make trade his next big issue.
The still-new administration, which struggled mightily to remake the health care system only to see legislation to repeal Obamacare stall in the House, has a string of trade-related executive orders queued up and ready to go, according to sources.
At least some of the orders, which would begin a review of the nation’s 14 free-trade agreements, were expected to be signed this week, but sources said were delayed by Trump’s failed battle to get support for his health-care proposal.
The review of the trade pacts is expected to focus on the roughly $48 billion trade deficit as well as trade barriers and areas where the terms of the deals could be renegotiated, sources said.
However, Trump does not need to issue an executive order to undertake a review of trade agreements.
After a trade agreement goes into effect, a given administration is expected to “continuously” review its terms, according to the International Trade Administration’s web site.
President Obama, for example, reviewed a number of trade agreements and introduced the Trans-Pacific Partnership without the use of an executive order during his administration.
While Trump has already used an executive order to pull the U.S. out of TPP, the North American Free Trade Agreement is expected to be one of the first trade deals up for review. Congress could be notified about a review of NAFTA by the end of the month, sources said.
Along with Mexico and Canada, the U.S. has free-trade agreements with Australia, Bahrain, the Dominican Republic, Chile, Colombia, Israel, Jordan, South Korea, Morocco, Oman, Panama, Peru and Singapore.
As for what the expected review of free-trade agreements could mean for fashion and retail, industry experts like Jonathan Gold, who focuses on trade and supply-chain issues for the National Retail Federation, are in “wait-and-see mode.”
Gold said it’s still unclear what exactly the Trump administration is hoping to get out of a prospective review of free-trade agreements, and that while the deals are generally liked by the retail industry, there’s potential for improvement.
“When we take a look at free-trade agreements, we think of all of them as very positive — helpful to the economy, to retailers and consumers,” Gold said. “We want no harm done to what’s currently in place, but some of these agreements have been in place for a long time, so there’s an opportunity to update, especially with e-commerce, which wasn’t around when some agreements were drafted.”
When it comes to what the retail industry would want to come out of any review, Hun Quach, vice president for international trade of the Retail Industry Leaders Association, said the less change, the better.
“Retailers are interested in a robust trade agenda focused on trade around the world,” Quach said. “Our current agreements have benefited retailers and we hope the current administration will recognize that and continue with that.”
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