In the Media

Opinion: How Much Can Trump Do by Himself to Fix Trade Deals?

The uncertainty surrounding the impact the Trump administration will have on trade policy has led many to speculate outcomes.

MarketWatch posed a few different scenarios, the first of which is if the US was to place a major tax on companies to leave the US.

"There is no law expressly permitting the imposition of tariffs on specific ‘outsourcing’ companies or based on a list of objective ‘outsourcing criteria,’” says Scott Lincicome, a trade attorney with White & Case and an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute. “It would require a very broad interpretation of existing law."

MarketWatch reported that the president can set in motion a process to institute taxes and countervailing duties on goods as a remedy for dumping, for example. But singling out a specific company for punishment would be the equivalent of an unconstitutional bill of attainder, according to Lincicome.

Another scenario is if the administration chooses to renegotiate, and possibly withdraw, from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Modern bilateral trade agreements are pretty "open-ended in terms of presidential authority,” but a multilateral deal such as NAFTA “complicates withdrawal and modification," Lincicome explains.

"It’s theoretically possible for the president to withdraw the US from NAFTA; what it triggers is unclear."

Canada and Mexico could continue to operate with each other — without the US, Lincicome says. In terms of the US’s commitments under the law implementing NAFTA, "the law is far from clear."