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2 executive orders target trade abuses

Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump signed a pair of executive orders Friday focused on reducing the trade deficit just days before he holds his first meeting with his Chinese counterpart.

Trump's aides insist the timing is coincidental, but the administration is touting the moves as evidence of it taking an aggressive but analytical approach to closing a trade gap that is largely due to the influx of goods from China. Some experts say the orders suggest the president may be taking a softer tack on trade.

The first order gives the Commerce Department 90 days to assemble a report on the factors behind the trade deficit, while the second seeks to increase collection of duties on imports.

In remarks in the Oval Office, Trump said he'd seen first-hand as he travelled the country how bad trade deals had hurt American workers.

"The jobs and wealth have been stripped from our country," he said, vowing to put that to an end. "We're bringing manufacturing and jobs back to our country."

A White House official said Trump later signed the orders later.

Several economists said it's unlikely the planned report would address the broader economic forces behind the trade imbalance, since it would track trade deficits country-by-country and product-by-product. And the order on trade duties appears to duplicate the standards of a trade enforcement act signed into law by then-President Obama in 2016, according to congressional staff.

"It seems like there is less here than meets the eye," said Robert Scott, director of trade and manufacturing policy research at the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute.

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