The way the issue has been portrayed, it would be easy to think that the only country with whom the US trades is China. In reality, the Section 301 duties and trade remedies applied by the United States government has moved China out of the top spot, returning fellow North American neighbor Canada to its long-held position as our number one trading partner.
But looking beyond China, the Office of the United States Trade Representative has been busy with other countries.
On September 26, 2018, Presidents Trump and Abe announced their intention to begin negotiating a U.S. – Japan Trade Agreement. Those discussions have been ongoing throughout the past year and the first fruits of that are being borne out when in early October, text was released of the U.S.-Japan Digital Trade Agreement and the wider United States – Japan Trade Agreement.
From the perspective of the Japanese, they received few concrete assurances that their auto industry would be fully protected from an action by the USTR if the Administration determines that foreign automobiles and auto parts are a threat to US national security.
Last month, Japan’s lower house of parliament passed the deal and it should pass the upper chamber in early December.
The House of Representatives had held out hope of taking up USMCA in this session, but the ongoing impeachment hearings and investigations have seemingly sidelined any possibility for ratification prior to American elections in a year.
Automobiles and the duty-free treatment of vehicles of the trading bloc are a major component of the discussions, and the USTR has taken the highly unusual step – in concert with automakers who want to see a deal passed to remove the cloud of uncertainty over the future of NAFTA as it stands today – of working to dictate what components would include, or for that matter exclude, an automobile or part from USMCA duty preference.
Boris Johnson must first deal with parliamentary elections scheduled for December 12th, but both he and President Trump have discussed the importance of a bilateral free trade agreement between the two countries if and when Britain leaves the EU.
However, as recently as the beginning of November, comments made by the President while speaking to Nigel Farage on LBC radio put that agreement in jeopardy. Trump said that under the current Brexit terms, it could prevent the UK from agreeing to a trade deal with the US.
Many of those discussions center around what would happen were the National Health Service, or NHS, to be sold off or if access to contracts with the NHS for American corporations would be a mandatory component of a wider US/UK trade deal.