Donald Trump’s media event on Friday to announce his “new era in trade policy” began like much else in his administration – with a blunder.
The U.S. president invited the Washington press corps to the Oval Office to witness the signing of two executive orders on trade intended to begin putting “America First” policies into action. “Thousands of factories have been stolen from our country,” Mr. Trump growled, adding that from now on “the well-being of America and the American worker is my north star.”
But the president lost his nerve when journalists began asking him about investigations into his campaign’s Russian ties. Flustered, Mr. Trump stormed out of the room, forgetting to sign the executive orders.
The error was quickly rectified: The orders mandating the government to investigate economic relations with America’s most important trading partners were signed in private.
Mr. Trump wants to know the reasons for America’s enormous trade deficit and has ordered the U.S. Department of Commerce to search for an empirical basis to justify a sharp increase in tariffs. The steel sector, in particular, is under heavy scrutiny. The Trump administration has accused several foreign steelmakers, including Germany’s Salzgitter and Dillinger Hütte, of price dumping.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has threatened these and other foreign firms about engaging in unfair practices. “Our steel industry today is under assault from foreign producers that dump and subsidize their exports,” he said. “We will ensure U.S. businesses and workers are treated fairly.”
The U.S. government, he said, will make a final decision on possible dumping duties by the middle of May.