The Great Wall: Trade Enforcement in the Age of Trump




WITA welcomed an expert panel to discuss the recently announced tariffs on aluminum and steel and what these measures may mean for U.S. workers, firms, and consumers. For more information on the event and information on the speakers, please visit the events page here.

The Great Wall: Trade Enforcement in the Age of Trump

By: Henry Menn

David Lynch opened the panel by describing the current scene in trade policy, detailing some of the Trump administration’s bold actions.

Wendy Cutler started off her remarks by laying out three principles for stepped up trade enforcement: all actions taken must be in accordance with WTO obligations, all actions must focus directly on the specific problem or country at hand, and we must work hand in hand with our allies and partners to obtain the greatest results. She finished her remarks by describing the Asian reactions, most of which she called measured and cautious, yet warned of likely retaliations.

Nova Daly began his remarks by outlining the difficulties of trading with state led economies. Mr. Daly noted that the tariffs are meant to target distorted, state-driven overcapacity from China and other state-led economies. In his opinion, we have to address these issues directly, but we must be careful about how we do this.

Heidi Brock, CEO of the Aluminum Association, opened her remarks by explaining that her sector has been forced to take a non-traditional approach to trade due to illegally subsidized Chinese aluminum. In the past, this was not an issue as most was internally consumed, however due to economic slowdown Chinese overcapacity has increased to 11 million metric tons, which is more than six times US overcapacity. This large overcapacity has led the Association to pursue unfair trade actions for the first time in 85 years. However, she emphasized that tariffs and trade actions are an opportunity to engage and build alliances with trading partners about Chinese overcapacity and trade violations.

Rufus Yerxa began by warning that in our haste to correct trade violations and overcapacity we are at risk of hurting ourselves. In the time spent levying tariffs on China, several free trade agreements have been forged isolating the United States from global free trade. In his opinion, this decreases trust with our allies about whether or not we can take on China together. Such lack of trust may lead the United States to turn inward and away from global trade.