President Donald Trump on Saturday marked his 100th day in office by saying he had brought “profound change” to Washington and reaffirming that “my only allegiance” is to those he governs.
During an evening trip to Pennsylvania, one of the states that propelled his unlikely election victory, Trump planned to sign an executive order directing the Commerce Department and the U.S. trade representative to conduct a study of U.S. trade agreements.
The goal is to determine whether America is being treated fairly by its trading partners and the 164-nation World Trade Organization.
Trump was scheduled to visit the Ames tool factory in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, which has manufactured shovels since 1774, and then hold a campaign-style rally in Harrisburg, the state capital.
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Trump announced this past week that he intended to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement and begin reworking a trade deal with South Korea, with which the U.S. has a significant trade deficit.
“There isn’t a day that goes by that the president doesn’t discuss some aspect of trade,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said at the White House Friday.
Early on in his tenure, Trump used an executive order to withdraw the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal negotiated by the Obama administration.
“From the first day of my administration, I have governed by a simple idea: My only allegiance is to you, our wonderful citizens,” Trump said in his weekly radio and internet address. “Together we are seeing that great achievements are possible when we put American People first. That is why I withdrew the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. That day was a turning point for our nation. It put the countries of this world on notice that the sellout of the American worker was over.”
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He said in his remarks: “In just 14 weeks, my administration has brought profound change to Washington.”
Executive orders in line to be signed Saturday would be the 31st and 32nd since taking office __ the most of any president in his first 100 days since World War II. During the campaign, Trump railed against President Barack Obama’s use of the power, which has the benefit of not needing congressional approval.
The more significant of the two orders would give the Commerce Department and the U.S. Trade Representative 180 days to identify violations and abuses under U.S. trade agreements and recommend solutions.
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Ross said the WTO, the arbiter of world trade rules, was bureaucratic and outdated and needed an overhaul. Ross played down the possibility that the United States would consider leaving the organization but didn’t rule it out.
The administration argues that unfair competition with China and other trade partners has wiped out millions of U.S. factory jobs. Ross said dissatisfaction with trade policy is one reason voters turned to Trump.
Trump has ordered the Commerce Department to study the causes of the United States’ massive trade deficit in goods — $734 billion last year, $347 billion with China alone. The administration is also imposing duties on Canadian softwood timber and is investigating whether steel and aluminum imports pose a threat to national security.