January 14, 2019

President Wants New Tariff Powers, But Congress Likely Won’t Agree

The White House reportedly is planning to propose a new bill called the United States Reciprocal Trade Act, which would give the president line-by-line power to raise tariffs on individual products if trading partners charge higher import taxes. President Donald Trump might unveil the agreement in his upcoming State of the Union address, which is scheduled for Jan. 29, 2019. Bloomberg reports that the draft bill argues, “The lack of reciprocity in tariff levels and disproportionate use of non-tariff barriers by United States trading partners facilitates foreign imports, discourages United States exports, and puts United States producers, farmers, and workers at a competitive disadvantage.”

According to Politico, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro has been pushing the idea and Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) is working to gather lawmakers’ support before introducing it in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Some members of the president’s own party already have rejected the idea, however. According to Politico, Senate Finance Committee Chair Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) said, “We ain’t gonna give him any greater authority.” On social media, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) said, “Congress should be reasserting its constitutional responsibility on trade, not yielding even more power to the executive branch.”

Democrats also are skeptical. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), a member of the Senate Finance Committee who is expected to run for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020, said, “The president hasn’t earned it … when he’s done this so clumsily with tariffs already.” Pro-trade Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) echoed that feeling. On Twitter, he said, “Wisconsin has lost $139 million to import tariffs since this Administration got its hands on trade and started this unnecessary trade war. In what world would this be a good idea?”