From National Review:
None of this, of course, is to deny that China’s trade practices are harmful to American interests, something even the previous administration took steps to address. “There’s no question that China has an overcapacity problem,” says Clark Packard, trade-policy counsel at the conservative R Street Institute. “The government uses it as a jobs program, and they subsidize steel production. The argument goes that once they have this overcapacity of steel, they just dump it on the market, driving down prices. But the Obama administration was aggressive about that and put in anti-dumping and countervailing duty tariffs on Chinese steel, so very little Chinese steel makes its way into the United States.”
Even if President Trump’s approach is in fact meant as a blunt display of force rather than a nuanced negotiation technique, those opposed to the tariffs may find gripes with the White House’s area of focus. “China’s game is not focused on sort of low-level steel. They’re not worried really about agriculture. Their big game right now is just trying to be the world leader in AI, microchips, and computer type processes. So they’re more than happy to have our attention focused on the 232s when we could instead focus more on building a holistic case to address their intellectual property practices,” Packard says.
Packard described the initial intention behind Congress’s abdication of its responsibility to set trade policy itself: “If you’re a United States congressman from Michigan, and your manufacturing base gets hammered, you’re not going to be really pro-trade. But the president understands that he’s beholden to the entire country, so he can take a more holistic view and understand that that small district may be negatively affected, but overall we’re better off. So Congress delegated a lot of trade authority to the executive branch. And the rough balance worked until the rise of Trump. He’s the first president who’s been more protectionist than Congress.”
Packard and Munson alike seem unconvinced that Congress will try and reclaim that power. As Munson puts it, “every chance” Congress gets, “they will punt it to the executive, and they’re very happy to do it.”