Trump's executive orders initiate a large-scale review of the causes of the US' trade deficits with some of its largest trading partners and order stricter enforcement of US anti-dumping laws to prevent foreign manufacturers from undercutting US companies by selling goods at an unfair price. The orders marked Trump's latest attempt to follow through on his campaign rhetoric decrying other countries for taking advantage of the US' trade policies.
Vowing that the "theft of American prosperity will end," Trump said Friday that his administration "will take necessary and lawful action" to end trade abuses.
"Thousands of factories have been stolen from our country," he said, vowing to create a "level playing field" for US workers.
The signing comes a week before Trump is set to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping. China, the largest source of the US's trade deficit, has repeatedly run afoul of the US' anti-dumping laws, and Trump has repeatedly accused the country of hurting the US economy through unfair trading practices.
Briefing reporters at the White House on Thursday, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Peter Navarro, director of the National Trade Council, insisted the measures were not aimed at putting China on notice ahead of that first hotly anticipated meeting between the two world leaders.
"These actions are designed to let the world know that this is another step in the president fulfilling his campaign promise to (tackle trade abuses)," Ross said.
Still, Trump capped off his remarks Friday on the executive orders by making note of his meeting with Xi next week and promising to "get down to some very serious business."
Both Ross and Navarro also made clear that both executive orders would tackle the sources of the US' trade deficit with China, which Trump argues has led to the loss of millions of US jobs and the decline of US manufacturing.
Both Ross and Navarro pointed to steel dumping as an issue affecting the US trade deficit. China is a primary source of steel dumping in the US, which has disrupted the domestic market for steel and hurt US steel manufacturers. Navarro also noted that China accounts for about one-third of anti-dumping cases.
And moments before the briefing got underway, Trump took to Twitter to proclaim that his meeting with Xi next week will be "a very difficult one."
"We can no longer have massive trade deficits and job losses. American companies must be prepared to look at other alternatives," Trump tweeted.
Navarro couldn't have been less eager to address the President's missive.
"We're not here for tweets," Navarro shot back at a reporter who asked about the tweet.
As a result of the first executive order, the Commerce Department and US trade representative will compile a thorough accounting of the US's trade deficits with its top trading partners within 90 days. The report will look to determine the extent to which the US trade deficit is a factor of cheating, unfair trading practices and currency imbalances.
Ross said the report would "form the basis" for further actions by the Trump administration to tackle trade imbalances.
"It will demonstrate the administration's intention not to hip shoot, not to do anything casual, not to do anything abruptly, but to take a very measured and analytical approach," said Ross, adding that the administration might take actions before the report has been fully compiled.
The second executive order will seek to bolster US agencies' authority to combat dumping by foreign companies and countries, which is a form of trade cheating.
Navarro said $2.8 billion in import taxes imposed against violators of US anti-dumping laws have gone uncollected since 2001.
Navarro said the new measures would target US agencies' failure to collect those duties "like a laser" to collect all anti-dumping taxes owed to the US and "deter the cheaters."
Navarro called the executive orders a "historic moment."
"For the first time, we're looking at what's been the source of the large and persistent trade deficit that has contributed to job losses," Navarro said.