President’s Growing Trade Gap: A Gulf Between Talk and Action

Increasingly, when it comes to foreign trade, the Trump administration is talking loudly and brandishing a small stick. The widening gap between President Trump’s bellicose talk and the modest actions of his administration was again on display Friday afternoon as he presided at the ceremonial signing of two executive orders. They would, he said, ”set the stage for a great revival of American manufacturing.” ”Under my administration, the theft of American prosperity will end,” he said. But the new orders, authorizing a large research study and strengthened enforcement of an existing law, are unlikely to effect a major change in the nation’s fortunes. Instead, the ceremony highlighted an emerging pattern on trade. Mr. Trump blasted the Trans-Pacific Partnership as a ”potential disaster” and made a great show of removing the United States from the ratification process. On Friday, one of Mr. Trump’s top advisers on trade said the Trump administration planned to use the scorned agreement as a ”starting point” for its own deals. Mr. Trump described the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada as history’s worst trade deal, and vowed to overhaul or replace it. The White House is now planning to seek relatively modest changes in the agreement, according to a draft document provided to key members of Congress. Mr. Trump also chided China on Twitter ahead of President Xi Jinping’s visit to his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida next week, declaring that the United States ”can no longer have massive trade deficits.” But the Trump administration has not articulated specific plans to shrink that deficit; the Treasury Department has not moved to keep Mr. Trump’s promise of declaring China a currency manipulator.