Washington, DC think-tanks and trade groups are issuing statements outlining their approaches to the incoming Trump administration. Rufus Yerxa, president of the National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC), said his organisation, with its 300-plus corporate members, is prepared to work with Donald Trump to improve conditions for US exporters. He added, however, that the international economy and the national economy are inextricably linked, and that no set of policies proposed by the incoming administration and the new Congress can ever succeed without addressing this reality.
Mr Yerxa stressed that trade policy should be structured to maintain and expand US leadership in creating a more open and rules-based global economy through the use of a “muscular but strategic negotiating and enforcement effort”.
“It should be aimed at addressing unfair trade while strengthening global norms that reflect our principles of open markets and non-discriminatory treatment,” he said. “This means both regional and multilateral engagement in building stronger trade rules, disciplining unfair practices and protecting the investments our companies have made in innovation and technology.”
Using an often inflammatory tone, Mr Trump clearly maintains a nationalistic approach for his tax plan, regulatory framework and US trade policy. He proposes to charge his secretary of commerce with identifying every trade agreement violation deemed as harming American workers, and direct all appropriate agencies “to use every tool under American and international law to end these abuses".
Mr Trump also said he plans to immediately renegotiate the terms of North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) to get a better deal for US workers. If unsuccessful, he will call for the US to withdraw from Nafta. He also said he will instruct the treasury secretary to label China a currency manipulator and order the US trade representative to bring trade cases against China, both in the US and within the World Trade Organization.
Many of Mr Trump’s comments have drawn praise, but also criticism from opposing groups and world leaders. NFTC is taking a more neutral approach, however. Mr Yerxa maintained that NFTC will not be drawn into discussing Mr Trump’s inflammatory statements such as threats to impose huge punitive tariffs on China and the renegotiation of free-trade deals. “I want to be optimistic, “he said. “I’ve seen this before where there are a lot of dire predictions with incoming administrations about what's going to happen. In the end, very positive things have happened."
With member companies involved in international trade and invested overseas, NFTC advocates for promoting higher economic growth rates and job creation through goals that contain, at a minimum, core elements such as an “outward-looking and dynamic trade policy that maintains a commitment to open markets, appropriately addresses unfair trade and economic policies and creates better, more transparent rules for global competition".
“We want to see changes that are based on the needs, imperatives and realities of the future, and that recognise our need to co-exist and compete with a rapidly changing world,” said Mr Yerxa.
It is a position to which many organisations in Washington, DC adhere.