Raise tariffs on goods imported into the U.S.

“Any country that devalues their currency to take unfair advantage of the United States and all of its companies that can’t compete will face tariffs and taxes to stop the cheating.”

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Investigations into trade practices could mean more tariffs

During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump called for tariffs on imports from countries that he deemed untrustworthy.

"I'm going to instruct my treasury secretary to label China a currency manipulator, the greatest in the world," Trump said at a campaign rally in Tampa. "Any country that devalues their currency in order to take unfair advantage of the United States, and all of its companies who can't compete, will face tariffs and taxes to stop the cheating. And when they see that, they will stop the cheating."

In other public appearances, Trump floated the idea of slapping a 45 percent tariff on Chinese exports to the United States.

The Treasury Department did not label China as a currency manipulator in an Oct. 17 report, but the political pressure on Trump to meet his campaign promise remains. So far, the White House administration's strategy has focused on increasing enforcement of fair trade practices.

Of note, the U.S. Commerce Department on Nov. 28 "self-initiated" an investigation into whether imports of aluminum sheets from China were being sold at unfairly low prices or were subsidized. If the investigation finds that either practice occurred, the Commerce Department will instruct U.S. Customs and Border Protection to begin collecting dues from U.S. companies importing Chinese-made aluminum sheets.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the investigation is part of a larger initiative to increase enforcement.

"President Trump made it clear from day one that unfair trade practices will not be tolerated under this administration, and today we take one more step in fulfilling that promise," Ross said in the investigation's announcement. "We are self-initiating the first trade case in over a quarter century, showing once again that we stand in constant vigilance in support of free, fair and reciprocal trade."

Most Commerce Department trade cases are initiated after an industry group or company files a petition notifying the department of suspicious trade practices. It is unusual, but not unprecedented, for the Commerce Department to initiate investigations on its own.

The Commerce Department said it has increased the number of antidumping and countervailing duty investigations by 65 percent this year compared with last year.

Dan Ikenson, the director of the Cato Institute's Herbert A. Stiefel Center for Trade Policy Studies, said most of the Commerce Department's enforcement has little to do with the White House administration, and he doesn't think the increase in investigations is out of the ordinary. He said he thought the administration would take a more aggressive approach to imposing tariffs, given Trump's rhetoric during the campaign.

Still, it's clear that Trump is looking for avenues to implement tariffs. He asked the Commerce Department in April to investigate the effects of aluminum and steel imports on the needs of U.S. military defense. The results of the investigations could allow the government to raise broad tariffs on those industries, if the trade practices in those industries are shown to hurt national security.

Since the Commerce Department has taken a more aggressive stance on enforcement, there's a chance we could see more tariffs in the future. We'll rate this In the Works.


U.S. Commerce Department, "U.S. Department of Commerce Self-Initiates Historic Antidumping and Countervailing Duty Investigations on Common Alloy Aluminum Sheet From China," Nov. 28, 2017

U.S. Treasury Department, "Foreign Exchange Policies of Major Trading Partners of the United States," Oct. 17, 2017

The White House, "Aluminum Imports and Threats to National Security," April 27, 2017

U.S. Commerce Department, "Presidential Memorandum Prioritizes Commerce Steel Investigation," April 20, 2017

The New York Times, "Donald Trump Says He Favors Big Tariffs on Chinese Exports," Jan. 7, 2016

C-SPAN, Donald Trump campaign rally in Tampa, Aug. 24, 2017

Phone interview, Dan Ikenson, director of the Cato institute's Herbert A. Stiefel Center for Trade Policy Studies, Dec. 1, 2017