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Trump has upended relationships with 9 of 10 top US trading partners

During his election campaign in 2016, US President Donald Trump promised to shake up global trade and bring down America's growing trade deficits.

[WASHINGTON] During his election campaign in 2016, US President Donald Trump promised to shake up global trade and bring down America's growing trade deficits.

Now relationships with all but one of the United States' top ten 2018 trading partners has been thrown into uncertainty, and there is no clear roadmap for when new trade agreements may be finalised.


The United States has been embroiled in a tit-for-tat trade war for 17 months with its once-largest trading partner. Mr Trump said on Tuesday that he had "no deadline" for the deal, and that he likes "the idea of waiting until after" the US 2020 presidential election, sending stock markets tumbling.

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US-China bilateral trade accounted for 15.7 per cent of US trade in goods during 2018, when it was the largest US trading partner. US-China trade has since shrunk to third place behind that with Mexico and Canada, making up 13.5 per cent of total trade in 2019 through September.


The Trump administration renegotiated the North American Free Trade Agreement with its neighbors in 2018.

But the deal has yet to be passed by the US Congress, where Democrats want for more protections for workers and changes that may lead to cheaper drug prices, leaving the future of the three-country, US$1.2 trillion open trade zone uncertain.


Mr Trump has threatened to impose tariffs of up to 25 per cent on auto imports from the European Union. He missed a deadline to decide on the tariffs, but has not withdrawn his tariff threat as negotiations fail to gain traction.

Separately, the USTR said Monday it would review raising tariffs on more EU products, without specifics, after the World Trade Organization affirmed that aid to planemaker Airbus continues to harm the US aerospace industry. And The US Trade Representative's office unveiled a US$2.4 billion tariff list of imports from France, including cheese, handbags and Champagne, as punishment for France's new digital services tax.

The EU was America's top export market in 2018, with purchases of US$319 billion in US goods and US$256 billion in US services. EU members Germany, France, Britain and Italy were among the top 10 US trading partners in 2018.


Mr Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe signed a limited trade deal in September that would grant more access to Japan for some US$7 billion in US agriculture products, including beef and pork, in exchange for lowering US tariffs on some industrial goods. But the deal did not include autos, the biggest source of the US$67 billion US goods trade deficit in 2019.

Although Mr Abe says he has been assured that Japan will not face car tariffs as Washington and Tokyo resume negotiations next year, Mr Trump has not eliminated the threat of such duties.


The US in July eliminated India's trade benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences, affecting some US$5.6 billion worth of exports, amid disputes over India's new digital trade restrictions and alleged trade barriers for US medical devices and other products.

Negotiations to resolve the issues and lower some of India's high tariffs for farm goods, motorcycles and industrial goods, have failed to result in an interim deal thus far.


The only completed and implemented trade deal that Trump's administration has negotiated has been a minor revamp of the US-Korean Free Trade Deal last year. The deal allows the US to maintain its 25 per cent truck tariff for another 20 years instead of phasing it out in 2021, while reducing some Korean regulatory barriers to car imports from the US.