While there is movement on multiple fronts of the US trade war, it remains unclear if it is forward movement or merely wheel-spinning
President Trump said Wednesday that he was in no rush to complete a trade deal with China that doesn’t include protection for intellectual property – a ”major sticking point between the two sides during months of negotiations,” according to Reuters. The news service goes on to explain that Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping had been expected to hold a summit at the president’s Mar-a-Lago property in Florida later this month, but ”no date has been set for a meeting and no in-person talks between their trade teams have been held in more than two weeks.”
Trump told reporters he thought there was a “good chance a deal would be made, in part because China wanted one after suffering from US tariffs on its goods.”
But according to Bloomberg, Trump’s former top economic advisor, Gary Cohn, says the president is ‘desperate’ to reach a trade deal with China and is being ”ill-served by protectionist advisers who have left the White House ‘living in chaos’ on major decisions.”
Meanwhile, the fate of the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement, the so-called ‘New NAFTA’, appears to be tied to Mexico’s willingness to improve its labour laws, according to reporting in Politico.
The White House is said to be stepping up efforts to get Democrats in the House of Representatives to support the agreement, sending US Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to meet with the Democratic Caucus. After the meeting, several Democrats praised Lighthizer for his accessibility, but the administration and House Democrats seem to be on a collision course over how to enforce Mexico’s labour commitments.
Some House Democrats have said they will wait for Mexico to pass a law to make necessary labor changes – a commitment it made as part of the deal to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Some lawmakers remain worried Mexico will backpedal on its commitments, which the Mexican Senate had initially been set to pass last year. However, the administration of Mexico’s new populist leader, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has said the Mexican Senate, which is led by his party, is now likely to pass the necessary legislation in April, according to Politico.
Regardless of Mexico’s domestic actions, Democrats continue to raise concerns that the trade deal’s rules make it hard to enforce any violation of its provisions. They also are skeptical about how the administration might address the larger issue of enforceability.