U.S. President Donald Trump will sign an executive order Friday that will direct officials to conduct a country-by-country, product-by-product analysis of the causes of U.S. trade deficits, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Thursday.
Ross said China, Japan, Germany, Mexico and other countries with which the United States incurs hefty deficits are likely to be subject to the planned investigation.
The move is part of the Trump administration’s efforts to address what it says are unfair trade practices of U.S. trading partners and reduce U.S. deficits.
Ross said it will be “the first systematic analysis” of what causes the United States to incur trade deficits, looking at the issue “country by country, product by product.”
The order will direct the Commerce Department and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to complete the study and report the findings to the president in 90 days, he said.
Officials will study to what extent U.S. deficits have been caused by “cheating” trade practices and currency misalignment by other countries, as well as asymmetrical treatment of tax systems by the World Trade Organization.
They will also review the effects on the deficits of free trade agreements that have failed to produce the benefits that were forecast.
“The United States has the lowest tariff rates and the lowest nontariff barriers of any developed country,” Ross said.
The secretary said many countries talk about free trade, but that “they are far more protectionist than we are.”
With the findings, the administration may press China, Japan and other trade partners to further open their markets for U.S. goods and services.
As of last year, China incurred $347 billion worth of trade surplus with the United States, followed by Japan with $69 billion, Germany with $65 billion and Mexico with $63 billion. Other Asian economies also generated surpluses with the United States, with Vietnam having a surplus of $32 billion and South Korea of $28 billion.
Also on Friday, Trump will sign a separate executive order that directs the Commerce and Homeland Security departments to step up the collection of anti-dumping and countervailing duties that are levied against illegally subsidized foreign products.