President Trump signs executive orders on trade

The orders come days before the Chinese president meets with Trump.

March 31, 2017, 4:33 PM

— -- President Donald Trump signed two executive orders related to trade on Friday, pledging in a speech from the White House "to defend our industry and create a level playing field for the American worker."

The first executive order launches a wide-ranging review of the U.S. trade deficit with the purpose of identifying forms of "trade abuse" that have contributed to the deficit. In a phone call with reporters Thursday that included National Trade Council Peter Navarro, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross -- who appeared at the White House with Trump Friday -- said the investigation will go through U.S. trade relationship country-by-country to look for issues like cheating, lax enforcement or currency misalignment.

"It will demonstrate the Trump administration's intention not to hip-shoot, not to do anything casual, not to do anything abruptly, but to take a very measured and analytical approach," Ross said.

"From now on those who break the rules will face the consequences, and there will be very severe consequences," said Trump at the White House.

The second executive order seeks to strengthen anti-dumping rules and enforcement. Navarro called it an action to address the "long-festering problem" of anti-dumping and countervailing. The order directs the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretaries of Commerce and Treasury, to impose requirements and strengthen enforcement.

"We're going to investigate all trade abuses and based on those findings, we will take necessary and lawful action to end those many abuses," said Trump

The World Trade Organization describes "dumping" as countries exporting a product at a lower price than it would be sold in its home market. WTO procedures allow countries to charge extra duties, called countervailing duties, on subsidized products that the country finds hurt its domestic imports.

"From a policy point of view it really goes like a laser at a problem and it solves it quickly, one that's been going on for 15 years," said Navarro Thursday.

Though the orders come just a week before Trump will welcome Chinese President Xi Jinping to his Florida estate -- where the two leaders are expected to discuss trade extensively – Ross and Navarro said the actions should not be interpreted as putting China on notice.

"These actions are designed to let the world know this is another step of the president fulfilling his campaign promise," Ross said.

Trump referenced the visit during his White House remarks, saying he "looks forward" to meeting with the Chinese delegation.

"We look very much forward to it, but it's been very bad what's been happening to our country in terms of our companies and in terms of our jobs, so we're going to start turning it around," said Trump.

Ross previously noted that China is the number one source of the U.S. trade deficit.

Navarro reprimanded one reporter Thursday who asked him about China, after he had just noted that China accounts for "at least a third" of the dumping abuses against the U.S.

"Nothing we're saying tonight is about China, let's not make this a China story," Navarro said. "This is a story about trade abuses, this is a story about under-collection of duties, this is a story about 40 countries that basically subsidize their products and send them into our country or dump their products, and this is about collecting those products and defending American workers and manufacturing."

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