Pres. Donald J. Trump opened NAFTA renegotiations with Canada and Mexico. The hot-button issue this month is the growing trade deficit and the president’s call for Mexico to pay for a border security wall. The current Mexican trade deficit stands at $64 billion and experts have identified the primary cause as the auto industry. Currently, the U.S. has a $74 billion auto trade negative with Mexico. Trade remains relatively stable with Canada. To date, negotiations have been heated and the U.S. and Mexico have threatened to end talks. In August, Pres. Trump repeated his vow to terminate NAFTA unless it is modernized.
Military Equipment for Police Departments
Pres. Trump rescinded an order by former Pres. Obama that banned the sale of military surplus equipment to local, tribal and state law enforcement agencies. The equipment ranges from weapons to vehicles and office furniture. The administration stated that change “will ensure that (law enforcement) can get the lifesaving gear that you need to do your job and send a strong message that we will not allow criminal activity, violence, and lawlessness to become the new normal.” Restoration of the pre-Obama policy was lauded by the Fraternal Order of Police and criticized by the NAACP. The policy allows municipalities to purchase decommissioned and surplus equipment at a reduced cost.
The widely reported economic collapse and regime change in Venezuela prompted sanctions to close loopholes by the South American nation to sell off assets. Allegations that Venezuelan Pres., Nicolas Madura, strong armed the last election to increase his power and rollback Democratic progress have also prompted a call for potential military intervention by Pres. Trump. The executive order exempts transactions that include humanitarian aid and U.S.-owned companies.
Pres. Trump authorized the military to halt the enlistment and ascension of transgender personnel by memorandum. The guidance also bans government resources to be used for paying medical bills and other things associated with the transgender process. The directive allows current Armed Forces leaders to use their discretion regarding those already serving. The policy change is set to take effect January 1, 2018, or until a study has been conducted demonstrating transgender issues do not impede military cohesiveness.
Legislation Signed into Law
The president signed the following pieces of legislation into law during August.
- Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act: The law allows further sanctions against Iran, Russia and North Korea for acts of military aggression and destabilization. Pres. Trump signed the law as a stop-gap measure but was critical that the legislation carried significant flaws.
- Wounded Officers Recovery Act: The legislation was prompted by the attack on GOP members at the annual baseball game in which Capitol Police were injured fending off the gunman. It allows officers and other personnel access to resources when injured in the line of duty.
- VA Choice and Quality Employment Act of 2017: The reform legislation aims at improving care for veterans by implementing reforms and protecting whistleblowers. It focuses on properly staffing hospitals and necessary positions for VA quality care improvement.
- FDA Reauthorization Act of 2017: The law is designed to further the FDA’s ability to move medications and cures through a new user fee process. The goal is to make medications available to patients in need.
- Fishery Agreement: The law removed a sunset clause that would have ended a bi-lateral fishery agreement between the U.S. and Poland.
- Rapid DNA Act of 2017: The president signed into law this legislation that reduces DNA analysis times for law enforcement from days to approximately 90 minutes.
- Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017: This legislation streamlines and shortens the appeals time for veterans with disabilities. The law was prompted by the current 470,000 veterans awaiting decisions. According to Veterans Affairs Secretary Dr. David Shulkin, the appeals process can take as long as six years.
Proclamations & Executive Orders
- Women’s Equality Day declared Aug. 26 by proclamation.
- After traveling the Hurricane Harvey disaster in Texas, Pres. Trump proclaimed September National Preparedness Month.
- National Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve week was proclaimed for Aug. 20-27.
- Environmental Reviews: The president signed an executive order calling for transparency, accountability and the reduction of waste and duplication in the permitting process of infrastructure projects.
- War on Drugs: the president issued a memorandum authorizing continued use of military assets to aid the government of Columbia to combat drug trafficking.
Pres. Trump did not veto any legislation during the month of August.