President Donald Trump will throw himself fully into his battle to overhaul U.S. trade deals this week with special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation — mostly — behind him.
The president won the White House in large part by pledging to crack down on foreign trade abuses and rework international agreements to boost U.S. manufacturing and protect American workers. The conclusion of Mueller's probe — and the Justice Department's decision not to charge the president with obstruction of justice — comes at a pivotal time in Trump's push to follow through on a campaign priority ahead of his 2020 re-election bid.
Trump will try to rework U.S. trade relationships on more than one front in the coming weeks and months. He not only aims to strike a new deal with China, but also wants Congress to ratify a revised North American trade deal. A flurry of activity on the trade front starts this week:
- Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is set to meet with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and undisclosed members of Congress in Washington on Monday. She led her country in talks to revise the North American Free Trade Agreement, which the U.S., Canada and Mexico agreed to do last year. They hope their legislatures will ratify the deal — dubbed by Trump the United States Mexico Canada Agreement — in the coming months.
- Trump is set to meet with lawmakers Tuesday about trade issues.
- The House Ways and Means Committee's trade subcommittee will hold a hearing Tuesday titled, "Trade and Labor: Creating and Enforcing Rules to Benefit American Workers." Concerns about protections for workers have led to some resistance to the USMCA deal within the Democratic-held House.
- Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin head to Beijing on Thursday to continue talks toward a trade deal with China. Trump has touted progress toward an agreement with the world's second largest economy, which could end a potentially devastating trade conflict. The sides still need to hash out some of the finer points of a deal, such as how much China will increase its buying of U.S. goods, how the U.S. will stop Chinese intellectual property theft and how quickly the Trump administration will lift tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese goods.
- A Chinese delegation led by Vice Premier Liu He will then come to Washington for more discussions starting April 3.
- Trump is also deciding whether to impose tariffs on European cars. The Commerce Department sent a confidential report to the president last month that was expected to recommend duties on national security grounds. Some Senate Republicans who opposed previous tariffs levied using a national security justification have started to line up against the potential auto tariffs.