President Donald Trump abruptly walked out of the Oval Office Friday without signing executive orders on trade, as he dodged questions about whether he wants the Department of Justice to grant immunity to Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser.
The first order directs the Commerce Department to take the next three months to review the reasons for US trade deficits and all violations of trade rules that harm USA workers across every trading partner.
But Peter Navarro, director of the White House National Trade Council, stressed the orders had nothing to do with Trump hosting President Xi Jinping of China at his estate in Florida next week.
Donald Trump has long complained the USA gets a raw deal on trade, and these executive orders are aimed at ending it.
"But taking a very measured and analytical approach", Ross said.
"Thank you, everybody", Trump said from behind podium after explaining the orders.
The order, Trump said, would "ensure that we fully collect all duties imposed on important importers that cheat".
The second requires the U.S. Department of Commerce and U.S. Trade Representative to examine all the factors that contribute to the U.S. trade deficit, and give him a report in 90 days. For example, in trade, in steel, we now have something like 187 cases of this kind of duties and anti-dumping outstanding.
For example, an iPhone assembled in China is regarded as a Chinese export - but the money Apple makes from it is accounted for in the US - contributing to the economy. 'Right Wilbur?' he said to Ross.
Still, Ross noted that China is the number one source of the USA trade deficit.
Several economists said it's unlikely the planned report would address the broader economic forces behind the trade imbalance, since it would track trade deficits country-by-country and product-by-product.
One specific step Trump has already decided on is stricter enforcement of anti-dumping and countervailing duties, the penalties that the US already imposes on importers who violate trade rules.
Early this month, the USA trade representative released an annual trade policy report highlighting negative effects of the Korea trade pact, arguing that the pact "coincided with a dramatic increase in our trade deficit" with the South.
"President Trump carried OH largely on his promises to correct this massive job outsourcing and very big trade imbalance that has hammered Ohio's workers and businesses since NAFTA's passage", she noted.
The second order, which is tied to trade enforcement, was part of a customs bill Congress passed a year ago.
"From now on those that break the rules will face the consequences", Trump said.
'Today I'm signing two executive orders that send this message loud and clear, and that set the stage for a great revival of American manufacturing, ' he said in the Oval Office.