Transition Memo: Trade Reform Begins Day 1

President-elect Donald Trump smiles as he arrives to speak at an election night rally, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

CNN reports that President-elect Donald Trump will begin reforming America’s trade policy on Day 1 of his administration. According to a transition team memo obtained by CNN which outlines Trump’s trade policy for the first 200 days of his presidency, Trump will focus on renegotiating or withdrawing from the North American Free Trade Agreement — a frequent promise Trump made on the campaign trail.


The memo itself states it is “for discussion purposes only.” The Trump transition team blueprint is based on its pre-election work and Trump’s own campaign promises:

“The Trump trade plan breaks with the globalist wings of both the Republican and Democratic parties,” the document notes. “The Trump administration will reverse decades of conciliatory trade policy. New trade agreements will be negotiated that provide for the interests of US workers and companies first.”

The Trump plan is built around six main principles:

  1. Renegotiating or withdrawing from NAFTA;
  2. Stopping the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal;
  3. Stopping “unfair imports”;
  4. Ending “unfair trade practices”:
  5. Pursuing bilateral trade deals; and
  6. Retain and return manufacturing jobs.

On Day 1, Trump would begin reforming NAFTA by ordering the Commerce Department and International Trade Commission to begin a study on what the ramifications of withdrawing from the treaty would be, and what would be required legislatively to do so. He would also have the US Trade Representative notify Mexico and Canada that the US intends to propose some amendments to the treaty, which could include measures on currency manipulation, lumber, country of origin labeling and environmental and safety standards.

According to CNN, a draft presidential memorandum at the end of the transition memo orders the report to pay “extra consideration to the effects such a policy change may have on the middle class, manufacturing and service sector workers, and foreign direct investment into the United States.”


The memo notes that there could be negative consequences of withdrawing from NAFTA. But the document states that those impacts could be mitigated if the US were to pursue bilateral trade agreements with Canada and Mexico.

None of this should be a surprise. Trump’s Contract With the American Voter — his plan for the first hundred days of his presidency —  states that on the first day of his presidency Trump will take certain actions to protect American workers including:

FIRST, I will announce my intention to renegotiate NAFTA or withdraw from the deal under Article 2205.
SECOND, I will announce our withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
[. . .]
FOURTH, I will direct the Secretary of Commerce and U.S. Trade Representative to identify all foreign trading abuses that unfairly impact American workers and direct them to use every tool under American and international law to end those abuses immediately.


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