Congress wants to participate in the use of commercial tariffs


Trade disputes during the Trump era saw the resurrection of “national security” tariffs such as the Section 232 tariffs authorized by the President and the executive branch. A new bipartisan bill introduced in the Senate would prevent the president from abusing tariffs.

The Congressional Bicameral Trade Authority Act would subject any tariffs or quotas proposed by the President for national security purposes (through the Section 232 authority) to Congress for review and approval before d ‘come into force.

Under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act 1962, Congress has delegated certain tariffs and quotas to the executive under certain conditions in the event that an import poses a threat to national security. Historically, Section 232 investigations have been rare and rarely resulted in the imposition of tariffs – before 2018, a President last took action under Section 232 in 1986.

However, the previous administration made extensive use of Section 232, unilaterally imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum and investigating six additional products. In the 60 years of Section 232’s existence, about a quarter of investigations have taken place in the past four years alone.

On September 24, the Biden administration launched a new Section 232 investigation into the national security impacts of imported neodymium-iron-boron (NdFeB) permanent magnets – rare earth magnets – that are used in the production of wind turbines, electric vehicles and a number of other items. In addition, in a speech on Oct. 4, Ambassador to US Trade Representative Katherine Tai said the administration would seek “all kinds of tools at our disposal” to combat China’s actions. .

Related: Ambassador Tai seeks to raise the bar with China

Senators Pat Toomey, R-Pa., And Mark Warner, D-Va., Introduced bipartisan legislation to prevent the presidential abuse of “national security” tariffs by restoring congressional authority over commerce.

“For too long Congress has allowed presidents to unilaterally impose tariffs on false claims of ‘national security’ – whether or not the import in question poses a real threat to national defense. These wrongly imposed tariffs have increased costs for US consumers, significantly weighed down domestic manufacturers and undermined our relationships with our allies, ”Toomey said. “Through the Congressional Bicameral Trade Authority Act, we can restore the authority of Congress by once again requiring that tariffs imposed for so-called ‘national security’ purposes be approved by Congress, including those which have already been adopted on steel and aluminum in 2018. “

To avoid a future abuse of Section 232 authority, the Senators’ Bill would require congressional approval in the event the executive chooses to adjust import levels. It would also restore the national security intent to the law, defining the term “national security” to include articles specifically related to military equipment, energy resources and critical infrastructure.

“As our economy continues to recover from the economic crisis, we must ensure that Congress has a say in any future actions that may restrict trade or force significant changes,” Warner said. “This legislation, which we introduced under the last administration, will help prevent any future president from abusing national security authorities to impose unilateral tariffs. It will also help ensure that all efforts to crack down on unfair or illegal trade practices are strategic and carried out in concert with our allies. “

Other original co-sponsors include Sens. Tom Carper, D-Del., John Cornyn, R-Texas, Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Chuck Grassley. R-Iowa, Maggie Hassan, DN.H., Ron Johnson, R-Wis., Tim Kaine, D-Va., Angus King, I-Maine, James Lankford, R-Okla., Mike Lee, R-Utah, Jerry Moran, R-Kan., Ben Sasse, R-Neb., Tim Scott, RS.C., Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, Jeanne Shaheen, DN.H., and Thom Tillis, RN.C.

Several outside groups have expressed support for the Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act, including the National Foreign Trade Council, the Tariff Reform Coalition, the Business Roundtable, the United States Chamber of Commerce, the North American Association of Equipment Manufacturers. Food and Equipment Manufacturers Association.

Association of Equipment Manufacturers President Dennis Slater welcomes reintroduction of the Congressional Bicameral Trade Authority Act as it would ensure that future tariffs or quotas put in place for national security reasons are considered by Congress.

“American equipment makers continue to pay artificially inflated prices for steel, compromising American manufacturing and our industry’s ability to compete globally,” Slater said. “This legislation will add much needed transparency and accountability to a flawed process and ensure that the Defense Ministry also plays an active role in determining what constitutes a threat to national security. “

Equipment manufacturers rely on mutually beneficial business relationships with their partners. For example, 30% of equipment manufactured in the United States is destined for export.

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