What to Expect on Trade Policy in the New Administration?

ThinkstockPhotos-543988758On March 1, the Office of the United States Trade Representative released the annual Trade Policy Agenda. The administration remains focused on its promise to secure strong trade agreements for the U.S. that support Americans and to strongly enforce U.S. trade laws. The report identifies other priority areas such as defending U.S. national sovereignty and providing effective protection of U.S. intellectual property rights.

President Donald Trump is following through with his campaign promises on trade. On January 23, he signed an executive order to withdraw the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Without the U.S. in the TPP, the absence of the U.S in the Asia-Pacific region is significant. The U.S. needs to quickly pivot and proceed with a new strategy for engagement in Asia.

President Trump’s frustration with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) – and his ambition to fix it—is clear. On February 2, he invited Congressional leaders to the White House to begin conversations on renegotiating NAFTA. Since then, administration officials have engaged in consultations with Congress and these consultations are expected to accelerate. The president has acknowledged the role of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) and the role of Congress in such negotiations. TPA requires a written notice from the administration to Congress establishing specific objectives for the negotiations. This will then trigger a 90-day clock before negotiations may begin, and it provides a period of time for further consultation with Congress and the industry advisory groups. TPA also requires that at least 30 calendar days before negotiations begin, USTR must publish on their website a detailed and comprehensive summary of the specific objectives with respect to the negotiations and a description of how the agreement, if successfully concluded, will further those objectives and benefit the U.S. CompTIA welcomes a modernization of the 23-year-old agreement to enhance our trading relationships with our top trading partners. Technology has evolved immensely and while the agreement has worked well for the tech sector, we have an opportunity to strengthen the agreement to reflect trade in services, rules in digital trade and an open platform for innovation that supports the rapidly evolving technology sector.

In his agenda, President Trump also vows to enforce unfair trade practices by foreign countries. The administration’s nominees are hawkish on China and we expect increased enforcement on steel and aluminum, and possibly other measures to enforce U.S. trade laws. China’s reaction to this enforcement may take the shape of retaliation and CompTIA is closely following the bilateral relationship. We are advocating on our member’s priorities through our executive leadership role in the United States Information Technology Office (USITO) in Beijing.

Please contact stefanie holland, director, international government and regulatory affairs for CompTIA, for more information and how you can get involved at sholland@comptia.org.