By David Lawder and David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump administration is preparing new executive orders to reexamine all 14 U.S. free trade agreements and revise government procurement policies to help U.S. businesses, two administration officials said.
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Mexico and Canada will top the list of trade agreements to be reviewed, affecting 20 countries from the Americas to Asia, the officials told Reuters. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the orders were still being developed.
They said Wednesday that the trade deal and the procurement review orders were among several executive actions the Trump administration is preparing on trade. The timing of the orders is unclear, but they could start rolling out next week, officials said.
Politico first reported on the plan for the two orders, citing a senior administration official who said the trade orders would help shift the White House narrative “to a place where the president can really shine.”
The fate of Trump’s first major legislative effort in Congress, a move to replace the Obamacare healthcare bill of 2010, remains uncertain amid stiff opposition from conservative Republicans. The House of Representatives had to delay a vote on the bill on Thursday due to insufficient support for the legislation.
Orders to review existing trade agreements and public procurement policies would be largely symbolic, as the administration has already announced its intention to renegotiate NAFTA, with plans to formally notify Congress of its intention to start talks in the coming weeks. .
Earlier last month, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said: “We are going to reexamine all current trade deals to see if we can improve them.”
US bilateral and multilateral trade agreements cover these countries: Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Jordan, Mexico, Morocco, Nicaragua, Oman, Panama, Peru. , Singapore and South Korea.
Media representatives from the White House and the United States Trade Representatives office declined to comment on the upcoming executive orders.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, the Utah Republican who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, said he would welcome orders to review the trade deals if it means he speeds up negotiations to change them.
“I think we have to start moving,” Hatch told reporters Wednesday. “If you want to do this unilaterally or bilaterally, you have to move on.”
Trump’s trade officials, including White House adviser Peter Navarro and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, have long said NAFTA’s rules of origin provisions should be stricter to exclude more external components. to the commercial block. NAFTA requires that cars and trucks have only 62.5 percent North American content, which provides important opportunities for Asian manufacturers to provide parts.
The procurement review would be in line with Trump’s “Buy American, Hire American” campaign and could win some allies among Democrats in Congress. These include Senators Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Jeff Merkley of Oregon, who urged the White House in a recent letter to exclude US government contracts from NAFTA and restrict waivers that allow more foreign companies to bid on acquisitions. public.
But news of the possible trade orders did not impress Republican Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts of Kansas.
“I am most interested in having our trade representative approved in the Senate,” Roberts told reporters, referring to Robert Lighthizer, Trump’s choice as the United States Trade Representative, whose nomination has stalled in the Senate.
Roberts also said he wanted to instill in the White House the importance of trade deals to boost agricultural exports, including a glut of wheat from Kansas, amid what he sees as a concern about manufacturing exports in the administration.