ICYMI: Congress should bring balance to U.S. tariff policy

Jan 22, 2019 by AFP

Americans for Prosperity Senior Policy Fellow Alison Acosta Winters | The Hill

As the trade talks with China continue, administration officials are reportedly pursuing legislation that would expand the president’s authority to impose tariffs. The U.S. Reciprocal Trade Act would empower the president to raise tariffs on individual products if he determines that any of our trading partners have imposed higher tariffs than we have imposed on their products.

Although the U.S. Constitution grants Congress the “Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises” and the right “to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations,” Congress has delegated much of that power to the president – from negotiating free trade agreements to unilaterally imposing tariffs – over the past century.

The result is a policy that is taxing billions of dollars’ worth of imported goods without an adequate check and balance by the Congress. These tariffs hurt the American people, raising costs on basic goods, squeezing small businesses, and provoking retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exports.

Tariffs also give government officials the power to pick winners and losers. Since trade laws allow for affected companies to file for exemptions, they effectively double down on a “Washington knows best” approach; unelected bureaucrats are empowered to choose who gets to avoid the tariffs.

Fortunately, there appears to be opposition to the proposal on both sides of the aisle. U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said plainly, “We ain’t gonna give him any greater authority.” Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) posted on Twitter that “Congress should be reasserting its constitutional responsibility on trade, not yielding even more power to the executive branch.” Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) also tweeted about the proposal, asking “in what world would this be a good idea?”

Congress was right to pass Trade Promotion Authority, which delegated some authority to the president to expedite negotiation of trade deals and lower barriers. But this proposal – which would grant the president the ability to unilaterally regulate international trade and impose taxes on the American people – simply goes too far.

We call on our lawmakers to ensure that that doesn’t happen.

Click here to read the full op-ed.

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