“Will Congress Rein in Tariff Abuse?”
Last week, Halie Craig and Clark Packard of the R Street Institute co-authored an important column in National Review, responding to the Supreme Court’s recent decision not to take up a case challenging the constitutionality of the Section 232 national security tariffs imposed on steel.
Concluding that Congress “needs to reassert its authority over trade,” Craig and Packard make the following key points about the broad authority provided under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962:
• “An outdated, Cold War–era statute designed to protect the national defense has been slowly and steadily repurposed as a unilateral tool for industrial policymaking” – to say nothing of “the Commerce Department’s outrageous finding that imports of automobile parts and cars threaten national security.”
• “Lost in the noise of the U.S.–China trade war, the Commerce Department opened three new Section 232 investigations in less than a month targeting imports of vanadium (an element used in some metal alloys), mobile cranes, and grain-oriented electrical steel (a type of steel commonly used in power distribution transformers).”
• “Unless Congress wants to see new pressures on the economy from destructive tariff policies and even more job uncertainty for Americans in the middle of a pandemic, it needs to reassert its authority over trade.”
ICYMI: Back in January, Packard authored a column in the Washington Examiner on the abuse of national security tariffs, in which he made the point that Section 232 is “meant to protect national security, not increase leverage for trade negotiators to extract more favorable treatment of American exports from trading partners”:
“In May, after a finding in a report by the Commerce Department that automobile and automotive parts imports threaten national security, the White House issued a proclamation directing the U.S. Trade Representative to negotiate agreements to address the situation with several trading partners. The department’s report is still not public despite a provision requiring its release inserted into December’s spending package by Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.
“At the World Economic Forum’s annual confab in Davos, Switzerland, last week, Trump suggested he may impose national tariffs on European autos unless the United States and the European Union can strike a trade deal in short order. But Section 232 is meant to protect national security, not increase leverage for trade negotiators to extract more favorable treatment of American exports from trading partners.”