A recent timeline of US trade relations

Under the Trump administration, the U.S. has announced changes to its trade policies, including new tariffs, and is currently negotiating with trading partners. We’ve selected highlights of developments in recent months:

  • Aug 16, 2017: The U.S., Mexico and Canada begin talks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Representing the three countries are U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo and Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.

  • Jan. 22, 2018: President Donald Trump approves tariffs on imported solar panel components and washing machines. This includes a 30 percent tariff on imported solar modules and a 20 percent tariff applied to the first 1.2 million washing machines imported in the first year and a 50 percent tariff on subsequent imports.

  • March 1: Trump announces global tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. He signs an executive order authorizing the tariffs on March 8, to take effect later in the month.

  • March 22: Trump instructs the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to consider increasing tariffs on Chinese goods. Trump said the tariffs “could be about $60 billion.” Later that day, China’s Ministry of Commerce announced plans to impose tariffs on about $3 billion worth of 128 American products.

  • March 23: The U.S. implements tariffs of 25 percent on steel products and 10 percent on aluminum products with temporary exemptions, originally extending until April 30, for Canada, Mexico, the EU, Australia, Argentina and Brazil.

  • March 28: The U.S. and South Korea announce an agreement “in principle” on “general terms” for amending the 2012 U.S.-Republic of Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA). A joint statement by the countries said the agreement “addresses issues related to investment, tariffs, trade in automobiles, and trade remedies.”

  • April 2: China implements tariffs on $2.97 billion worth of U.S. goods, including steel, aluminum, pork, and more than 100 other American products.

  • April 3: The USTR proposes a 25 percent tariff on a list of about 1,300 categories of goods imported from China, totaling about $50 billion per year.

  • April 16: The U.S. prohibits American companies from selling to Chinese phone maker ZTE Corp., for seven years. The company admits it had “illegally shipped U.S.-origin items to Iran, obstructed justice and made a material false statement.” The U.S. Commerce Department said the ban was “a regulatory action and is unrelated to any ongoing trade-related actions.”

  • April 17: China announces a temporary 178.6 percent deposit for Chinese importers to pay on purchases of U.S. sorghum, a grain used in animal feed and to make alcohol. The aim of the deposit was to correct “unfair trade practices,” the Chinese Ministry of Commerce director said, such as “dumping,” which is when companies export a product at a lower price than is normally charged in that market in order to eliminate competitors.

  • April 19: Russia asks the World Trade Organization for “consultations” with the U.S. regarding the steel and aluminum tariffs. India, China and the EU had earlier petitioned the WTO for similar tariff consultations with the U.S. Consultations allow member states to discuss a complaint and “to find a satisfactory solution without resorting to litigation.”

  • April 30: The Trump administration extends the temporary exemptions to the steel and aluminum tariffs, originally implemented on March 23, until June 1.

  • May 20: U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin says the U.S. and China have put tariffs “on hold.” According to a joint statement, China will “significantly increase” its purchases of U.S. goods and services. The U.S. had a goods trade deficit with China of $375 billion in 2017.

  • May 22: China’s Finance Ministry says it will reduce tariffs on U.S. imported cars from 25 to 15 percent of the wholesale price, and reduce tariffs on car parts to 6 percent across the board (from the current 6 to 25 percent, depending on the type).

  • May 25: The U.S. administration agrees to lift its ban on ZTE Corp. under the conditions the company fire its management team, hire American compliance officers and pay a fine.

  • May 29:The U.S. announces it will implement 25 percent tariffs on $50 billion of Chinese products, “related to the acquisition of industrially significant technology,” according to the White House. The tariffs will go into effect after a list of specific products is announced on June 15, the White House says. Also, the U.S., Mexico and Canada plan to continue NAFTA talks.

  • Anticipated June 2-4: U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is scheduled to meet with officials in China to discuss trade relations, the Chinese Foreign Ministry confirmed.


Sources: CBC, CNN, ICE News Release, Census: Trade in Goods with China, NBC News, Reuters, The New York Times, USTR Press Release, USTR: US-Korea Joint Statement, WTO


Writer: Leah Lim Mottishaw

Editor: Julia Berry Lopez

Lead Editor: Jens Erik Gould

Published online at The Knife Media on May 29, 2018