By Isaac Cohen*
The US Trade Representative Office, as mandated by law, has submitted to Congress the document containing the President’s 2017 trade agenda and the annual report on the trade agreements program. https://ustr.gov/sites/default/files/files/reports/2017/AnnualReport/AnnualReport2017.pdf.
Anybody interested in US trade relations should read the first seven pages of the report, because they describe how the new administration intends to fulfill the campaign promise of putting “America First.” This objective requires the execution of a commercial policy to defend US sovereignty, by the strict enforcement of trade laws against those imports which may hurt domestic productive activities and to ensure that dispute settlements under the World Trade Organization do not add obligations or restrict rights.
The other component of this new defensive trade policy intends to use all possible leverage to ensure that markets are truly open to US exports of goods and services. For this purpose, new and better trade deals will be negotiated, with an emphasis on bilateral instead of multilateral instruments. The first signal of this new approach was the US withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
The main justification for the adoption of this protectionist policy is the perception that the United States is at an unfair disadvantage in global markets, as illustrated by the persistent and increasing negative balance in the trade of manufactured goods.
*International analyst and consultant. Commentator on economic and financial issues for CNN en Español TV and radio, UNIVISION, TELEMUNDO and other media. Former Director, UNECLAC Washington.