Dithering may have made the situation worse for American steel producers. Mr. Gerard said foreign competitors had been flooding the United States market with steel products in anticipation of the tariffs. Some of this is happening in parts of the country that voted for Mr. Trump.
“This has been a bit of a letdown in the industrial heartland,” said Mr. Gerard, who is based in Pittsburgh. “A lot of our members supported the president because of what he said about steel and manufacturing.”
But steel only scratches the surface.
One accomplishment that Mr. Trump has notched on trade has been an agreement with China that opened its market to American beef exports. For the beef industry, however, the benefits of that deal pale in comparison with the cost of abandoning the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which had been spearheaded by President Barack Obama. It would have provided access to the enormous Japanese market.
Instead, Japanese tariffs on American frozen beef, which would have declined under Mr. Obama’s deal, are on the rise. Last week, they increased to 50 percent from 38 percent, making America’s meat even more vulnerable to competition from countries such as Australia.
“TPP was fantastic,” said Kent Bacus director of international trade for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. “When you walk away from it without a meaningful alternative, that causes a lot of alarm in the beef industry.”
Despite the delays, the pace of action on trade is expected to pick up soon. In the coming days, the United States trade representative is expected to unveil a trade case accusing China of extensive violations of intellectual property. On Aug. 16, the United States, Mexico and Canada are to begin talks on renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Mr. Trump threatened this year to terminate before reversing course.
The Trump administration has made the renegotiation of trade agreements central to its strategy for economic growth. Reducing trade deficits with other countries is one of its measures of success. Informed by his background in the real estate business, Mr. Trump has maintained that bilateral trade deals are simpler and more likely to benefit the United States than the multilateral pacts like Nafta or the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Likewise, Mr. Ross made clear during testimony before the Senate this year that the days of vast multinational trade deals were over. He argued…