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It's the month of reckoning for Trump's trade agenda

Chip Somodevilla/GettyImages President Trump talks with journalists after signing tax reform legislation into law in the Oval Office Dec. 22, 2017 in Washington, DC.
Trump will have to decide whether to impose tariffs on imports of everything from aluminum and steel to solar panels and washing machines.

by Sarah McGregor and Andrew Mayeda

President Donald Trump’s tough talk on trade could be reaching a moment of truth.

While Trump campaigned on clamping down on countries that engage in unfair trade, he managed to defer punitive actions in his first year by ordering his administration to study the challenges. Now the deadlines are approaching -- some of them in just a few weeks -- and the president will have the power then to move ahead with measures that could roil global trade.

Trump will have to decide whether to impose tariffs on imports of everything from aluminum and steel to solar panels and washing machines. Of course, he can always choose to do nothing or go for less heavy-handed remedies or ones that buy even more time, like negotiating a solution.

Mark your calendar with these milestones over the next month.

Jan. 5 - Talks to amend a five-year-old trade deal with South Korea take place in Washington. The U.S. wants Korea to provide more access for American cars and farm goods.

Mid-January - U.S. Commerce must recommend whether to slap tariffs on steel and aluminum imports on national security grounds -- aimed at China. Trump then has up to 90 days to take action.

Jan. 23-28 - Montreal hosts talks to revamp the NAFTA pact between the U.S., Mexico and Canada. This sixth round is critical for a breakthrough so that efforts to rework the trade deal don’t soon collapse. 

Jan. 26 - Trump is due to decide whether to take action on cheap solar panel imports to protect the U.S. manufacturing sector. The U.S. International Trade Commission has found that cheap foreign-made solar products are hurting domestic producers.

End-January - The Trump administration could announce action on China’s intellectual property practices before his month-end State of the Union speech, according to industry publication Inside Trade. This could be delayed -- an investigation into China’s alleged IP theft and forced technology transfers isn’t due until later this year.  

Late-January - The U.S. ITC is expected to give a final ruling on whether American industry has been hurt by Bombardier’s sales of passenger jets, as Boeing alleges. If the ITC sides with Boeing, duties on Bombardier C Series jets would become permanent.

Early February - Trump is expected to make a decision on whether to impose tariffs on imported washing machines. The U.S. ITC has recommended imposing graduated tariffs over three years on a quota-basis.

To contact the reporters on this story: Sarah McGregor in Washington at [email protected]; Andrew Mayeda in Washington at a[email protected]

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Brendan Murray at [email protected]

Sarah McGregor, Randall Woods

© 2018 Bloomberg L.P

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