WASHINGTON (March 8, 2018) – The R Street Institute is dismayed by President Donald Trump’s decision to sign terribly destructive tariffs of 10 percent on aluminum imports and 25 percent on steel imports, invoking Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. Section 232 empowers the president to restrict imports judged to be a threat to national security.

Today’s protectionist announcement from the White House rests on weak national security grounds that have been continuously undercut by the president’s own statements, according to R Street Trade Policy Manager Clark Packard, who called on Congress to reassert its power to overturn the president’s decision.

“This truly is a sad day for America’s role as the champion of the rules-based global trading system,” Packard. “While we impose tariffs on steel and aluminum on specious grounds, the remaining signatories to the Trans Pacific Partnership are finalizing the agreement today. While other nations are moving forward with lowering trade barriers, the president is intent on raising barriers.”

Article I, Section VIII of the U.S. Constitution grants Congress primary responsibility to set trade policy, including levying tariffs. Accordingly, the R Street Institute calls on Congress to address this misguided decision swiftly through legislation. There is precedent to do exactly that. In 1980, Congress quickly overturned President Jimmy Carter’s decision to impose import restrictions on oil issued pursuant to Section 232. It was members of Carter’s own party in both chambers who led the effort to overturn and today’s House and Senate should follow their example.

“Aluminum and steel-using companies, which employ far more Americans than domestic steel mills, will be hurt by today’s announcement, but the fallout will not be limited to aluminum and steel users,” Packard said. “When our trading partners inevitably retaliate, American employees working in unrelated export-dependent industries will suffer needlessly. Congress should act quickly to prevent this ill-conceived decision from moving forward.”


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