US President Donald Trump on Friday signed two executive orders to ramp up trade enforcement.
In one of them, Trump required the commerce secretary and the US trade representative to prepare a report within 90 days, assessing the practices of US trading partners contributing to the $500 billion trade deficit the US had in 2016 on a country-by-country and product-by-product basis.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was quoted by Xinhua news agency as saying that the report will form the basis for further actions by the Trump administration to tackle bilateral trade imbalances.
He said that the results of the report could lead the administration to find solutions about how to reduce trade deficits by increasing US exports.
The second order aims to improve collection of anti-dumping and countervailing duties. It said that, as of May 2015, about $2.3 billion in anti-dumping and countervailing duties owed to the US government remained uncollected.
The order also directs the Department of Homeland Security to better combat violations of US trade and customs laws and enable enhanced seizure of counterfeit and pirated goods.
The Trump administration's approach to tackling bilateral trade imbalances has received widespread criticism from economists.
Gary Hufbauer, a trade expert with the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said that the US runs an overall trade deficit with the rest of the world because the combined net savings of the US households, businesses and government sectors are negative, and the dollar is persistently overvalued in foreign exchange markets.
Hufbauer considered Trump administration's approach to the bilateral trade balance as a display of mercantilist doctrines, adding that a trade balance makes little economic sense as a guide to trade policy in the 21st century, nor as a focal point for shrinking the US trade deficit.