It’s arguable that 100 days (98 to be exact) isn’t all that much time to judge a new president on his progress, but while Trump’s intentions on trade have been bold thus far, little concrete has taken shape on the topic since the new administration settled in.
If you ask the White House, Trump has taken “bold” actions to restore America’s prosperity and restore confidence in the economy. He’s also signed more executive orders (upward of 30) “than any other president in over half a century.”
When it comes to trade, however, for those entrenched—many of which are retailers still wondering which way to move forward—much has been stirred up but little settled. Many have even accused the president of flip-flopping on policies he promised during his campaign to pull or put in place right away.
What’s been done on trade so far
So far, Trump has pulled the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He reviewed accusations of currency manipulation but decided not to label China a manipulator, which he had vowed to do. He also signed an executive order last week to toughen up the scrutiny on the H-1B visa program he says companies have abused to bring in cheap foreign labor. The White House on Wednesday alluded to a possible withdrawal from NAFTA but after phone calls from Canada’s prime minister and Mexico’s president, Trump agreed to continue on the path toward renegotiation.
Trump met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in early April to discuss trade and relations, but has since seemed to soften his full-steam-ahead attack on correcting what he’s been calling unfair trade practices. The reason, he said, is because of China’s current aid in handling the situation in North Korea. Either way, the U.S. said earlier this month that it wants to see “tangible” actions on trade from China in the next 100 days. Vice President Mike Pence has also started talks with Japan on a bilateral trade deal with the U.S.
Also Wednesday, President Trump announced a plan for tax reform that some say did little to outline any real reform, but retailers can at least breathe a temporary sigh of relief that the border adjustment tax wasn’t part of the plan.
According to the White House, in Trump’s first 100 days, the United States economy has created 49,000 new manufacturing jobs and the unemployment rate is at its lowest since May 2007. The president has also implemented “Buy American, Hire American” policies to “Ensure unfair competition does not harm American companies; Favor American products over foreign products; Stop abuses of our visa systems that have harmed American workers.”
What remains up in the air
For all that’s been done, however, much of the resolutions and paths forward remain up in the air.
Though the president said Thursday that renegotiations on NAFTA began that same Thursday, the process can’t begin until long-pending nominee for U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is officially in place, and it’s not clear how those talks will go, just what will change and when any of the potential changes would be agreed on and start to take effect.
Lighthizer came one step closer to appointment Tuesday when he cleared the Senate Finance Committee vote. Now Lighthizer has to be cleared by the full Senate, which is still trying to work out an issue regarding benefits for retired miners that has been linked to Lighthizer’s nomination. That issue is expected to be settled in the coming days and Lighthizer could assume his role, jumping right in on NAFTA renegotiations.
Plans for tax reform remain far from clear, and even without a mention of the border adjustment tax in the plan proposed this week, that doesn’t mean the tax is off the table. And though certain reforms have been proposed, there’s no telling yet what the plan will face on the Hill and if it would even be able to advance as is.
What some say Trump should tackle next for trade
After getting Lighthizer in place and moving forward with NAFTA, a new report on 12 Tasks for President Trump’s Next 100 Days by trade data firm Panjiva, said the White House also needs to proceed with the omnibus report the president called for to identify major drivers behind the U.S. trade deficit.
According to Panjiva data, the U.S. had a deficit of more than $5 billion with 21 different countries, including seven in the EU, Mexico, Canada, China and Japan.
The report, which is scheduled to be published by June 29, will form the basis of how the administration deals with its trading partners in the coming year.
And what’s perhaps of utmost importance to those in the apparel sector is some action on border adjustment.
“Announcements of a full budget could come at any time, but the implementation of the BAT will be dependent on broader tax reform,” Panjiva said. “Treasure Secretary Steven Mnuchin sees it as being in violation of WTO rules unless it is combined with changes in the interest and depreciation deductibles tool, but that deal could be completed by year end.” House Speaker Paul Ryan has said tax reform may be possible by the end of the summer.
At the rate that technology is changing, today's skills will soon be yesterday's news so companies must address the need for ongoing employee education.Read more
The latest sourcing country to see its wage rates rise is Mauritius, where garment workers will take home more than double their previous pay starting in January.Read more
The global economy will expand in 2018, matching the rate of growth achieved in 2017 and marking the first time since 2011 that global growth topped 3 percent, according to an annual forecast by business information provider IHS Markit.Read more
Mozambique is working with the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) to take its domestic cotton sector to the next level with additional environmental efforts.Read more
Consumers are spending more and shopping earlier this holiday season, providing hope for a strong performance throughout the balance of the shopping period.Read more
Terry Lundgren, Macy’s executive chairman, is retiring from the company’s board, plus Nike added two new executives to elevate its digital and retail teams.Read more
Omnichannel is more than just a buzzword—it's a necessary strategy for survival but too many retailers are struggling amid the current retail turmoil to keep up with consumer demands for a seamless experience.Read more