May 7 | By: Shawn Donnan.
Donald Trump’s campaign to shake up global trade has prompted claims that his protectionist promises are turning out to have more bark than bite. But that ignores one particular effect.
Encouraged by the US president’s “America First” pronouncements and his vow to crack down on cheating by other countries, US-based companies as big as Boeing are filing anti-dumping and other trade cases aimed at blocking imports with a new gusto. They are also digging out dormant statutes to bring new cases as the administration does the same. One of the results, some fear, is that what in many cases has been a technocratic US process is becoming overtly politicised as an administration eager to look tough on trade seeks to score political points.
“Most US presidents have been unwilling to have these little trade actions bubble up to their level and to achieve political significance that they have to weigh in on,” says Chad Bown, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute of International Economics. “That is out the door.”
Commerce secretary Wilbur Ross last month surprised some when he announced the imposition of tariffs on imports of Canadian softwood lumber as efforts to resolve a long-running dispute crumbled, and has threatened to do the same with Mexican sugar imports. But he has also weighed in on more obscure matters, promising to move “swiftly” with investigations into imports of products such as plywood and “carton closing staples” from China.
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