Monthly Archives: April 2017

Trump’s newest trade move reveals scaled-back approach

By Damian Paletta

President Donald Trump (Alex Brandon/Associated Press)

President Trump plans to sign an executive order on Saturday that would launch a six-month review of all existing U.S. trade agreements and propose ways to amend any of these agreements, reflecting the White House’s more cautious approach to trade issues after threatening more sweeping moves earlier this week.

Trump had planned to sign a much more confrontational executive order on Saturday, which would have started the process of withdrawing the United States from the North American Free Trade Agreement. But top advisers, the leaders of Canada and Mexico, and scores of business executives pushed back on this idea. Trump agreed to halt the effort.

Instead, Trump has decided to renegotiate NAFTA. His changed approach with NAFTA comes after he has also backed away from threats he leveled for months aimed at China. He declined to label China a currency manipulator, even though he promised to, and is now trying to foster more cooperative economic and national security discussions with Beijing.

Earlier this week, however, Trump did order tariffs on the imports of certain lumber products from Canada.

The executive order he plans to sign Saturday in Pennsylvania would direct the commerce secretary and the U.S. trade representative to conduct “a performance review of all our existing international trade and investment agreements.”

The United States has 20 bilateral trade agreements with different countries but is also a member of the World Trade Organization, an international organization that reviews trade disputes.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the U.S. involvement with the WTO would be a key part of this review, and the findings could lead the country to try to amend how the organization operates.

The impact of the new executive order could be muted or sweeping, depending on how the White House plans to act based on any recommendations.

Throughout his successful presidential …read more

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Trump really needs an economic boom. So far, he’s not getting one.

By Ana Swanson and Max Ehrenfreund

President Trump came into office promising to make the economy grow at rates the United States hasn’t seen for decades. On Friday, as the government reported that the U.S. economy expanded in the first quarter at its slowest pace in three years, he got a glimpse of just how far he has to go.

In the first official growth estimates of Trump’s presidency, federal economists reported gross domestic product, a broad measure of economic growth, grew at an annualized rate of just 0.7 percent in the year’s first quarter, down from 2.1 percent growth in the fourth quarter of 2016.


[U.S. economy grew at sluggish 0.7 percent in first quarter of 2017]

The report underscored the challenge the White House faces in reaching its target of 3 percent growth, an expansion Trump not only promised on the campaign but is counting on to fuel his broader economic agenda. The administration is proposing steep tax cuts, and top Trump officials argue those policies will deliver enough economic growth to essentially pay for themselves, with new activity allowing the government to collect the same amount in taxes despite the reduced rates.

But if that growth fails to materialize, the tax cuts would lead to a massive and potentially destabilizing increase in the national debt as the federal government borrows to make up the gap between elevated spending and falling revenue.

“Tax cuts are a good idea — they help growth — but only if they’re paid for,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. “The proposal the president put forward on Wednesday would blow a big hole in the budget, and that won’t …read more

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An illustrated guide to President Trump’s first 100 days

By Steve Brodner 1. The Putin connection 2. Alt-right supporters: Richard Spencer, Pepe, David Duke 3. Stephen Bannon/Jared Kushner death match 4. Missiles to Syria 5. Trump supporters 6. James Comey nixes the Obama wiretap story 7. Muslim refugees in limbo 8. Devin Nunes’s midnight ride 9. The Kim escalation and missile launch 10. Judges lighting up Stephen […] …read more

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Palestinians are rewarding terrorists. The U.S. should stop enabling them.

By Thane Rosenbaum When President Trump met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in February, stepping into the fray of the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he expressed his opinion on the one- or two-state solution by saying, “I can live with either one.” Trump will meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas this coming week. One item that ought […] …read more

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The latest bad economic news isn’t Trump’s fault, but he has made it his problem

By Max Ehrenfreund

The economy grew slowly last quarter, according to a report published Friday, the first official estimate of growth under President Trump. (Evan Vucci/AP)

President Trump came into office promising to make the economy great again — or at least make it grow at rates the United States hasn’t enjoyed for decades.

On Friday, he got a taste of just how far he has to go.

The country’s gross domestic product, a broad measure of economic growth, grew by a paltry 0.7 percent in the first quarter of 2017, slower than the quarter before it and far from what Trump said he would and could deliver for the American people. During the campaign, he cited figures as high as 6 percent.

Now, that anemic quarter isn’t Trump’s fault — there’s little if anything any president can do in his opening months that would have an instant effect on GDP growth — and it’s not even as bad as it sounds.

Despite the disappointing figures in Friday’s report, experts believe the economy is doing reasonably well. Official estimates of economic activity in the first quarter often give the impression of a weak economy, in part because of the weather. A winter storm can halt a construction project, or keep shoppers off the street. By contrast, unusually warm weather can discourage consumers from spending on wintry items.

The bad news for Trump is that while the economy may be sound, it’s not roaring, and a host of longer-term factors — which Trump didn’t cause but also can’t fix — mean it’s unlikely to hit rocket growth any time soon.

One factor is the age of the labor force. Although more Americans have gone back to work …read more

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