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Trucks load containers at the automated container dockyard in Qingdao, Shandong province, China. Trucks load containers at the automated container dockyard in Qingdao, Shandong province, China, Nov. 28, 2019 (Chinatopix photo via AP Images).

On Trade, Trump Had a Rocky Year. Will 2020 Be Any Different?

Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2019

It was another roller coaster ride in Washington last week—and that was before the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives voted Friday morning to approve two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. Despite impeachment getting closer to a full vote on the House floor, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced early in the week that the House would also vote on Trump’s top trade priority: replacing the North American Free Trade Agreement with the renegotiated U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA. By the end of the week, Washington and Beijing had filled in enough details on the “phase-one” deal to avoid Sunday’s threatened tariffs on $160 billion in Chinese exports of laptops, smartphones and other consumer goods. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, British voters gave Prime Minister Boris Johnson an overwhelming mandate to “get Brexit done,” as his simple campaign slogan put it.

While 2019 was bumpy—as predicted—these events could all pave the way for a smoother 2020, at least on trade. There was a hiccup over the weekend about the new labor enforcement mechanism of the USMCA, but that is unlikely to derail the deal. There is no longer any uncertainty about Brexit happening next month, and there is at least a cease-fire with China. ...

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