On The Hill

Trade Update (August 31)

Aug 31, 2020 | SHARE  

RNC Highlights

On Thursday (Aug. 27), President Trump spoke for over an hour at the 2020 Republican National Convention (RNC) and accepted the nomination for a second time.

Trump outlined the successes of his first term in office and highlighted his trade deals and the economy prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. He also criticized Democratic nominee for president Joe Biden over his long record in Congress and as vice president.

“Biden’s record is a shameful roll call of the most catastrophic betrayals and blunders in our lifetime. He has spent his entire career on the wrong side of history. Biden voted for the NAFTA disaster, the single worst trade deal ever enacted; he supported China’s entry into the World Trade Organization, one of the greatest economic disasters of all time,” Trump said.

Biden supported the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as a senator, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as vice president.

Trump used criticism of trade deals to appeal to blue-collar workers during the 2016 campaign. The president pointed to his renegotiated NAFTA, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), and said, “auto companies and others are building their plants and factories in America, not firing their employees and deserting us.”[1] 

China was a common “foe” at the convention. Former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley said, “communist China gave us coronavirus,” and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pledged that jobs are “coming home” from China.

Additionally, both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence highlighted the medical supply chain in their speeches.

Trump emphasized the administration’s actions during the COVID-19 pandemic and said through invoking the Defense Production Act (DPA), everyone in the U.S. that needed a ventilator was able to get one. Notably, Trump highlighted his administration would, “bring home our medical supply chains, and we will end our reliance on China once and for all.”

On night three, Pence also discussed the administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Pence specifically mentioned the administration’s efforts to “reinvent testing, produce supplies, and coordinate the delivery of billions of pieces of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).”

Trade issues were frequently discussed at the RNC by administration officials, state lawmakers, Members of Congress, and select members of the public.

To view a transcript of Trump’s speech at the convention, click here.


Trump Campaign Priorities

Prior to the Republican National Convention (RNC), the Trump campaign released a set of core priorities for a second term. Trade related plans include:

  • Enact Fair Trade Deals that Protect American Jobs;
  • “Made in America” Tax Credits;
  • Make All Critical Medicines and Supplies for Healthcare Workers in The United States;
  • Refill Stockpiles and Prepare for Future Pandemics;
  • Bring Back 1 Million Manufacturing Jobs from China;
  • Allow 100 percent Expensing Deductions for Essential Industries like Pharmaceuticals and Robotics who Bring Back their Manufacturing to the United States;
  • No Federal Contracts for Companies who Outsource to China;
  • Hold China Fully Accountable for Allowing the Virus to Spread Around the World;
  • Drain the Globalist Swamp by Taking on International Organizations That Hurt American Citizens; and
  • Get Allies to Pay their Fair Share.

To view the full set of priorities, click here.



Phase One

On Monday (Aug. 24), U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He held a call about the Phase One agreement between the two countries. The call came after the planned six-month review of the deal set for Aug. 15 was delayed.[2] 

“The parties addressed steps that China has taken to effectuate structural changes called for by the Agreement that will ensure greater protection for intellectual property rights, remove impediments to American companies in the areas of financial services and agriculture, and eliminate forced technology transfer,” USTR said in a statement.

“The parties also discussed the significant increases in purchases of U.S. products by China as well as future actions needed to implement the agreement,” the office added.

Both USTR Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin participated in the discussions.

Tensions between the U.S. and China have escalated over the past few months amid the COVID-19 pandemic and Trump’s bid for reelection in November.

To view USTR’s statement, click here. 


TikTok sued President Trump this week for banning its video-sharing application in the U.S. and argued that the Executive Order (EO) he signed was put together without regard for the “company’s rights.”

“The President’s actions clearly reflect a political decision to campaign on an anti-China platform,” TikTok’s complaint says.

The complaint also says Trump abused a law that grants him the authority to disrupt global business to address extraordinary threats.[3] 


On Wednesday (Aug. 26), the Commerce Department blacklisted 24 Chinese companies over, “helping the ruling Chinese Communist Party construct artificial islands in the South China Sea.”[4] The U.S. views these actions as military provocations.

The move will put the firms on Commerce’s “entity list,” and prevent the export of U.S. goods to the Chinese companies.

“The PRC must not be allowed to use (China Communications Construction Company) and other state-owned enterprises as weapons to impose an expansionist agenda,” Pompeo said in a statement.



On Friday (Aug. 28), Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said the country will ease restrictions on the import of U.S. beef and pork. The move could increase chances for a path to a free trade deal between the two nations.

Tsai told reporters she instructed ministers to ease restrictions on imported pork and beef 30 months or older from the U.S. Currently, it allows U.S. beef under 30 months. Additionally, she said Taiwan would set a minimum safety level for the port additive ractopamine, a chemical given to pigs to promote lean muscle growth that is common in the U.S. but banned in Europe and China.[5] 

It is unclear whether the moves will get USTR to the negotiating table.



On Monday (Aug. 24), the World Trade Organization (WTO) largely upheld Canada’s challenge to U.S. countervailing duties (CVD) against softwood lumber imports. The Trump administration criticized the WTO’s dispute settlement process in response.

The WTO found that U.S. actions were inconsistent with the organization’s agreement on subsidies and countervailing measures.

“Nothing in the (U.S. Commerce Department’s) determination therefore reasonably and adequately addresses whether each of the British Columbia interior, Alberta, Ontario, and Québec had their own distinct prevailing market conditions despite the ample evidence before the (department) that was directly pertinent to that question,” the WTO said in its report.

The U.S. and Canada have fought over softwood lumber for four decades, and the fight is expected to get renewed attention due to the USMCA.

USTR Lighthizer said the decision was flawed and that, “the panel’s findings would prevent the United States from taking legitimate action in response to Canada’s pervasive subsidies for its softwood lumber industry.”[6] 


Hogan Resigns

European Union Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan resigned this week over a political scandal around his attendance at a golfing dinner that broke Ireland’s COVID-19 restrictions. The decision to step down is seen as a blow to the European Commission because Hogan was seen as an experienced politician and negotiator.[7] 

European Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis will take over the trade portfolio temporarily.

To view Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s statement, click here.



On Friday (Aug. 28), Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe resigned due to health reasons.

“Even though there is one year to go in my tenure and there are challenges to be met, I have decided to stand down as prime minister,” Abe said at a press conference.

Experts believe that his successor is expected to continue the country’s focus on defense.

Abe and Trump developed a close relationship throughout both their tenures. The process to pick the next prime minister will likely happen behind closed doors.[8] 



[1] Pramuk, Jacob. “Here are the key moments from President Trump’s Republican National Convention speech.” CNBC, 28 Aug. 2020. https://link.edgepilot.com/s/d57e0496/fVK7LiFGnkODnPAEd8yQSQ?u=https://www.cnbc.com/2020/08/28/trump-rnc-speech-highlights.html

[2] Cheng, Evelyn. “U.S. and China hold phone call on phase one trade agreement.” CNBC, 24 Aug. 2020. https://link.edgepilot.com/s/4f56d470/1Sl8S2C3D0aaaPDwNJ4U8w?u=https://www.cnbc.com/2020/08/25/us-and-china-hold-phone-call-on-phase-one-trade-agreement.html

[3] Overly, Steven. “TikTok sues Trump in attempt to stave off ban.” Politico Pro, 24 Aug. 2020. https://link.edgepilot.com/s/f3eb84a3/MMKEhkBy7UqTBsOwtJbpDA?u=https://subscriber.politicopro.com/article/2020/08/tiktok-suing-trump-administration-in-attempt-to-stave-off-ban-1984365

[4] Bade, Gavin. “U.S. blacklists 24 Chinese firms, escalating military and trade tensions.” Politico Pro, 26 Aug. 2020. https://link.edgepilot.com/s/57b269af/0XfpM_bcZEuNE7bZ2L1-9Q?u=https://subscriber.politicopro.com/article/2020/08/us-blacklists-24-firms-escalating-military-and-trade-tensions-1985979

[5] Bade, Gavin. “Taiwan to ease restrictions on U.S. beef, pork in bid for trade deal.” Politico Pro, 28 Aug. 2020. https://link.edgepilot.com/s/a38bc603/YRXerbY70kGZWl199Htktg?u=https://subscriber.politicopro.com/article/2020/08/taiwan-to-ease-restrictions-on-us-beef-pork-in-bid-for-trade-deal-1986945

[6] Gardner, Lauren. “WTO sides with Canada in U.S. softwood lumber spat.” Politico Pro, 24 Aug. 2020. https://link.edgepilot.com/s/a1423df2/f4yqI_OnIkOZEHfZyZhDZw?u=https://subscriber.politicopro.com/article/2020/08/wto-sides-with-canada-in-us-softwood-lumber-spat-3983483

[7] Wax, Eddy & Vlla, Jakob Hanke. “Powerful EU trade boss resigns over ‘golfgate’ scandal.” Politico Pro, 26 Aug. 2020. https://link.edgepilot.com/s/315f02f0/nzHZXlt7g0ifQj14tLLaAw?u=https://subscriber.politicopro.com/article/2020/08/hogan-resigns-as-eu-trade-boss-over-golfgate-scandal-1986182

[8] Feldscher, Jaqueline. “Abe has resigned. So what does that mean for U.S.-Japan deals?” Politico Pro, 28 Aug. 2020. https://link.edgepilot.com/s/dedb4ad2/6bgyjjt3kEO6RQid7UWQZg?u=https://subscriber.politicopro.com/article/2020/08/abe-has-resigned-so-what-does-that-mean-for-us-japan-deals-3983564


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