Welcome to Weise Wednesday! Twice a month we will share a brief Q&A with the former U.S. Commissioner of Customs, Mr. George Weise. If you have questions, we encourage you to send them to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Q: At this stage of the Trump Administration, what are your thoughts on where his trade agenda is heading?

A: Although we have seen some early signs of the direction of the administration’s trade agenda, many questions remain as to where it will end up. During the campaign, candidate Trump was very critical of prior administrations’ handling of trade. 

He strongly opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), was highly critical of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and threatened to pull us out of the World Trade Organization (WTO). He vowed that, under his administration, better trade deals would be negotiated that put America first and better served U.S. workers. On the immigration front, he committed to build a wall along our border and said Mexico would pay for it.

Soon after the inauguration, the President took several actions relating to his campaign pledges on trade and immigration. He announced U.S. withdrawal from TPP and his intention to renegotiate NAFTA. In announcing his intention to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border, he suggested that a unilateral tariff on imports into the U.S. from Mexico was one of the options on the table to fund it.

More recently, the administration issued its 2017 Trade Policy Agenda announcing its intention to use “a more aggressive approach” than past administrations to address unfair foreign trade practices and open global markets to U.S. goods and services. Some of the key themes stressed in the report include:

  • The U.S. will use “all possible leverage” to open global markets, including strict enforcement of U.S. trade laws.
    • Adequate and effective protection of U.S. intellectual property rights will be a priority.
    • U.S. trade laws to prevent dumping and subsidized imports that harm American industries and workers will be vigorously enforced.
  • The U.S. will focus on bilateral negotiations rather than multilateral negotiations.
  • The U.S. intends to renegotiate and revise existing agreements (like NAFTA) to better serve U.S. interests.
    • Enforcing labor provisions in existing agreements and enforcing the prohibition of importation and sales of goods made with forced labor will be priorities.
  • The U.S. will not be bound by international settlement mechanisms like the WTO, and WTO decisions unfavorable to the U.S. will not automatically lead to a change in U.S. law or practice.

The administration’s full 2017 Trade Policy Agenda can be found here.

It is still too early to predict the steps that will be taken to implement this aggressive trade agenda and how our trading partners will respond to such actions.  As of this writing, the President’s nominee to become U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), Robert Lighthizer, who will be charged with leading this effort, has not yet been confirmed by the Senate.  It is expected that a more detailed report on the President’s Trade Policy Agenda will be issued after the Senate has confirmed Mr. Lighthizer as the USTR, and he has had a chance to provide his input.

Meanwhile, the trade community will continue to stay tuned for further developments and hope that that a more aggressive U.S. trade policy does not meet with retaliatory trade actions by our trading partners.