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Stalled Trade Agenda Leaves Industries in a Lurch

Donald Trump promised Americans that they would be exhausted from "winning" on trade under his presidency. But nearly seven months after Trump took office, the industries he vowed to protect have become tired of something else: waiting.

Stalled Trade Agenda Leaves Industries in a Lurch

After beginning his presidency with a bang by withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership pact in January, Trump has accomplished little else of significance when it comes to reorienting deals with other countries. Instead, his administration has been consumed by investigations into possible Russian collusion and a failed attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. It just hasn't been able to get around to the complicated rules that dictate international commerce.

For many businesses that had raised their hopes, frustration is mounting by the day.

America’s steelworkers are on edge as they wait for Trump to fulfill his promise to place tariffs on steel imports. Home builders are desperate for the president to cut a deal with Canada to end a dispute over its softwood lumber exports. And cattle ranchers are longing for a bilateral pact with Japan to ease the flow of beef exports.

“It’s frustrating because of the impact it’s having on the industry,” Leo W. Gerard, president of United Steelworkers International, said of the delayed outcome of a highly anticipated steel investigation. “It’s creating a crisis that’s being exacerbated.”

The Commerce Department was poised to deliver a report to Trump by the end of June with recommendations for steel tariffs, on the ground that cheap imports pose a national security threat. But the process became bogged down when industries that buy steel objected and other countries threatened retaliation. Trump said recently that dealing with steel was no longer a top priority, and Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, signaled to members of Congress in briefings last month that a decision was no longer imminent.

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