#1 – A JANUARY & FEBRUARY FULL OF DRAMA & DEADLINES
The conventional wisdom in trade circles is that the next few months could finally reveal whether the Administration is prepared to back its populist trade rhetoric with action. January and early February include several deadlines on trade enforcement actions and a potentially make-or-break NAFTA round in Montreal. Here are some key dates to look for and background on what’s at stake:
January 15: Deadline for Department of Commerce recommendations on whether steel imports threaten US national security
January 22: Deadline for recommendations on whether aluminum imports threaten U.S. national security
January 26: Deadline for President Trump's decision on whether to impose duties or quotas on solar panels
January 23rd - 28th: The sixth round of NAFTA re-negotiations in Montreal
February 1: International Trade Commission makes final decision on Boeing v. Bombardier
February 4: Deadline for President Trump's decision on imposing duties on washing machines
Coming soon: Penalties imposed on China's intellectual property abuse
#2 -MORE AG STATE SENATE REPUBLICANS MEET WITH TRUMP TO VOICE TRADE WORRIES
Senate Ag Chairman Pat Roberts led another group of ag state Republicans to the White House last week to plead with President Trump to drop his NAFTA withdrawal threats. In addition to Roberts, this week’s crew included Senators John Thune (SD), Roy Blunt (MO), John Hoeven (ND), Dan Sullivan (AK) and Cory Gardner (CO).
Robert’s told Inside U.S. Trade’s Jenny Leonard that he would be using NAFTA withdrawal’s potential create stock market shocks and nullify any gains from tax cuts as his main arm twisting strategy with the President. Two key quotes from Chairman Roberts:
“If we get into a farm recession, guess what -- there’s an awful lot of big companies that are involved in the stock market every day. So you could see a decline there. That’s my pitch.”
“It would be a paradox of enormous irony if after passing a tax bill to achieve economic growth we would have a decision on NAFTA that could certainly be harmful to that and get to a farm recession.”
Look for ramped rhetoric from Republicans on how NAFTA withdrawal would hit ag, stock markets, commodity markets, and tax reform in the days/months ahead.
#3 - KORUS TALKS BEGIN, BUT DON’T EXPECT NAFTA-STYLE RENEGOTIATIONS JUST YET
Last Friday, U.S. and South Korean officials met to begin talks on changes to the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS). The talks kick off at a time when national security friction between the two allies over a nuclear North Korea are increasingly dicey, which has led many observers to be skeptical that the U.S. would take the same kind of hard-line negating strategy we’ve seen to date in NAFTA.
Another big caveat – As former chief KORUS negotiator Wendy Cutler points out in this NY Times story, another big difference with the NAFTA renegotiations is that the administration has yet to notify Congress that its renegotiating KORUS which its required to do before making major changes to any trade agreement.
#4 – TRUMP SAYS LITTLE ON NAFTA TO PRO-TRADE AG CONVENTION
6,000 farmers and ag leaders packed the Gaylord Nashville Convention Center in Nashville on Monday to hear from President Trump, many wondering whether he would address trade among a pro-Trump but also pro-trade crowd. He didn’t.
Ducking an issue Trump normally makes a centerpiece of rallies and speeches in the heartland, Trump simply acknowledged that his administration is renegotiating NAFTA. Read more from Caitlin Dewey in the Washington Post and Megan Cassela and Helena Bottemiller Evich in POLITICO.
#5 - TRUMP TO USE SOTU TO PREVIEW AGGRESSIVE TRADE CAMPAIGN
POLITICO’s Doug Palmer and Andrew Restuccia have a behind the scenes look at the administration enforcement approach in the weeks ahead HERE. The story includes White House aides laying the groundwork for an aggressive trade enforcement posture in Trump’s January 30th State of the Union speech:
“Senior aides are also laying plans to use Trump’s State of the Union address at the end of the month to flesh out the president’s trade vision and potentially preview a more aggressive posture toward China.”
#6 - SOLAR TARIFFS OR QUOTAS IN A MATTER OF DAYS?
Inside U.S. Trade reports that tariffs or quotas on U.S. solar inputs could be coming in a matter of days after U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer recently met with solar groups to discuss options.
#7 – PURDUE WARNS CANADA TO “GET IN THE GAME” ON NAFTA TALKS
Ag Secretary Sonny Purdue sent a shot across the bow of Canadian NAFTA negotiators ahead of the Montreal round last week calling on them to "get in the game" and address their poultry and dairy tariffs in particular. More from Vicki Needham in The Hill.