WASHINGTON (CN) – President Donald Trump will sign two executive orders on Friday signaling his intention to begin looking in earnest at U.S. trade policy.
During a press briefing Thursday night, National Trade Council director Peter Navarro and U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross explained the executive orders would kick off a comprehensive review of what they described as foreign trade abuse, and begin the work of cutting back the United States’ half-trillion dollar trade deficit.
Ross said the first executive order, which focuses directly on the trade deficit, will order a 90 review of the causes behind it.
Ross said the review would provide the administration with a clearer picture of who is abusing the system by engaging in unfair trade practices.
“This demonstrates the administration’s intentions. Not to hip shoot, not to do anything casual or abruptly. But taking a very measured and analytical approach,” Ross said.
The second executive order Trump is to sign Friday calls for using the results of the analysis described above to strengthen the federal government’s ability to prevent product dumping and other forms of trade cheating.
Both Navarro and Ross said trade “cheating” has disadvantaged American manufacturers and workers, and resulted in the United States failing to collect $2.8 billion in import taxes since 2001.
President Trump has criticized China in the past for its trade practices, but both men said the orders aren’t intended to single out any one country.
The orders come just a week before Trump’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Florida.
“The designation of a country as a trade manipulator is the problem of the U.S. Treasury Department, not that of Congress. We’ll figure it out,” Ross said.
But if Ross and Navarro were at pains not to cast China in a bad light during the briefing, Trump had no such reservations Thursday.
In a tweet he said, “The meeting next with China will be a very difficult one in that we can no longer have massive trade deficits…”
And there’s no getting around the fact the United States’ biggest trade deficit — $347 billion — is with China.
That’s compared to a trade deficit of $69 billion with Japan; $65 billion with Germany; $63 billion with Mexico; and from $24 billion to $36 billion with Ireland, Vietnam, Italy, South Korea, Malaysia and India.
“We’ll be very busy during the next 90 days tracing through all of these intricacies,” Ross said.