Two significant events could set the course for imports and exports in the year ahead.
One of those involves President Donald Trump and his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, the other is the administration’s announcement it will start renegotiations of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
To renegotiate NAFTA, the White House must send a letter to Congress stating its intensions, which could be made this week.
There’s then a 90-day period before talks can actually begin, so negotiations wouldn’t begin until July.
However, the timeline also depends on confirmation of a new U.S. Trade Representative which continues to flounder on Capitol Hill.
According to the Washington Post, the Trump administration will seek modest changes to the 23-year-old trade deal with Canada and Mexico instead of wholesale changes as suggested during the presidential campaign.
“I would argue NAFTA is good for the U.S. economy,” said Ernie Goss, professor of economics at Creighton University. “In 1994, we saw the greatest run of employment in the U.S. and one of the strongest runs we’ve ever seen.”
The other major step is Thursday and Friday when Trump meets with Jinping, a week after the president signed an executive order aimed at combating foreign trade abuses.
The White House says those abuses led to a $500 billion trade deficit, and the biggest source of that deficit is China.
“China is an extremely important market,” said Steve Censky, CEO of the American Soybean Association. “We want to make sure our exports are not disrupted and we’re not involved in any type of trade war when we talk about tariffs put on Chinese goods.”