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AP

The Trump administration is working on an executive order that would initiate investigations into "unfair" product dumping from foreign companies — an action that could lead to tariffs on a wide range of products.

These plans are very fluid, and internal disagreements remain about how aggressive this order should be. Here's what I've learned from administration sources:

  • Steel and aluminum will be targeted.
  • Other products, including household appliances, could be targeted as well.
  • If the investigations result in new import duties — as some senior Trump officials believe should happen — it could make some consumer goods more expensive and could hurt the stock prices of American companies that rely on cheap steel imports. A good number of American manufacturing companies, however, could benefit from this hit to their low-cost competitors.

A White House official said this investigation is part of Trump's effort to protect American jobs and end unfair trade practices like dumping and foreign government subsidization.

"The administration will use the results of that investigation to determine the best path forward, which could potentially include everything from no action at all to the levying of supplemental duties," the White House official said. "But whichever action we take will be informed by the results of the investigation and not by predetermined conclusions."

  • Scope: This investigation could result in penalties that would be much broader than the anti-steel dumping measure the New York Times previewed last week.
  • Timing: Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is running point on this executive order, and an administration source tells me it could arrive as early as late April. But there's no point getting too wedded to that timeline, because Trump has slowed the pace of executive actions and this is an especially sensitive one: If it's clumsy, foreign trading partners could see this as the first shot in a trade war.
  • What Ross says, through a spokesman: "Trade negotiations and discussions should happen in the board room, not in the press room."
  • The narrative: If this investigation leads to penalties on foreign trading partners, it will be a big (and much-needed) win for Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, Peter Navarro, and other economic nationalists in Trump's orbit. Given the Syria strikes and Bannon's demotion from the NSC, their clout has appeared to diminish. The Goldman wing, meanwhile, will likely oppose aggressive trade moves.

Go deeper

56 mins ago - World

World leaders react to "new dawn in America" under Biden administration

President Biden reacts delivers his inaugural address on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

World leaders have pledged to work with President Biden on issues including the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, with many praising his move to begin the formal process for the U.S. to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement.

The big picture: Several leaders noted the swift shift from former President Trump's "America First" policy to Biden's action to re-engage with the world and rebuild alliances.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

In photos: The Biden and Harris inauguration

President Biden and first lady Jill Biden watch a fireworks show on the National Mall from the Truman Balcony at the White House on Wednesday night. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Biden signed his first executive orders into law from the Oval Office on Wednesday evening after walking in a brief inaugural parade to the White House with first lady Jill Biden and members of their family. He was inaugurated with Vice President Kamala Harris at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday morning.

Why it matters: Many of Biden's day one actions immediately reverse key Trump administration policies, including rejoining the Paris Agreement and the World Health Organization, launching a racial equity initiative and reversing the Muslim travel ban.

Republicans pledge to set aside differences and work with Biden

President Biden speaks to Sen. Mitch McConnell after being sworn in at the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Photo: Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images

Several Republicans praised President Biden's calls for unity during his inaugural address on Wednesday and pledged to work together for the benefit of the American people.

Why it matters: The Democrats only have a slim majority in the Senate and Biden will likely need to work with the GOP to pass his legislative agenda.