Congress must defend role in international trade
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Throughout our history, there has been vigorous debate over the contours of checks and balances in our Constitution. That is a complex debate – and there aren’t always clear answers. But in some places, the intent of our founding documents are clearer than others. Few are more explicit than the enumerated powers of Congress. Primary among them are the power to lay and collect taxes and duties, and the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations.

Under bipartisan American leadership, we created a global trade regime that has helped developing countries increase their standards, become more competitive, and pull their citizens out of poverty, all while creating new export markets for American products abroad and increasing prosperity at home. President Kennedy called trade "no longer a matter of local economic interest but of high national policy." President Reagan was guided by the principle that “we should be trying to foster the growth of two-way trade, not trying to put up roadblocks, to open foreign markets, not close our own.” Presidents of both parties have continued to work to build on the policies of their predecessors in this pursuit.


Today we find ourselves in a starkly different position. Rather than remaining a fierce advocate for opening new markets for American farmers, workers, and businesses, the president is extolling the virtues of trade wars and clamoring for tariffs that our trading partners, businesses, and consumers all oppose.

While Chinese overcapacity and dumping of metals like steel and aluminum and intellectual property theft must be addressed, the methods chosen by President TrumpDonald John TrumpUSAID administrator tests positive for COVID-19 Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year DOJ appeals ruling preventing it from replacing Trump in E. Jean Carroll defamation lawsuit MORE is completely counterproductive. Canadian, Mexican, European, Brazilian and Asian allies, whose economies also suffer as a consequence of Chinese mercantilist policies, must be engaged in responding to China. Together, we must confront China’s unfair trade practices rather than unilateral actions, which only serve to exacerbate China’s bad behavior.

However, rather than this measured and targeted approach, President Trump has unevenly imposed harsh steel and aluminum tariffs, under the guise of national security, raising tensions with allied and friendly nations that represent absolutely no threat to us and are essential in a multilateral effort to force China to be a better actor. His recent actions against China will raise the cost of critical products such as equipment for milking, brewing and candy making as well as lifesaving essential medicines. What’s worse is this has predictably been met with steep tariffs on iconic U.S. exports like soybeans, cranberries and Boeing aircraft. Unfortunately, these cases sound like a long line of legally and economically questionable unilateral trade actions expected from this administration in coming weeks and months.

There are no winners in trade wars — only losers. The impacts on American manufacturers — like Harley Davidson — and the retribution exacted upon American farmers and ranchers will be substantial, costing us more jobs than will be saved in the preferred and protected industries. This kind of naked protectionism is the worst form of crony capitalism — protecting the privileged few at the expense of the many.

It is vital for Congress to reassert its powers over trade policies that have been delegated to the president. Congress must immediately hold hearings on the scope and impacts of the recently announced tariffs and work to mitigate the harmful effects, particularly on our nation’s closest allies. Additionally, Congress should work to implement a more rigorous process for cancelling or exiting existing trade agreements, just as there is a process for implementing one. That’s why I, along with a bipartisan group of my colleagues, have introduced legislation to do just that. Our bill, the Trade Authority Protection Act, would require the president to submit to Congress a report including enough information on any trade action such as this that Congress could decide whether or not the action is appropriate. If not, Congress could use the same Congressional Review Act procedures we have used over a dozen times this year to reject such an action.

This approach would be the best way to protect American workers, save American jobs, and increase the competitiveness of American companies abroad. We stand ready to work, in a bipartisan manner, to accomplish these goals.

Rep. Ron KindRonald (Ron) James KindOn the Trail: Five House results illustrate a politically divided America Democratic Rep. Ron Kind fends off challenge in Wisconsin Democrats, GOP fighting over largest House battlefield in a decade MORE represents Wisconsin’s 3rd District. He serves on the Ways and Means Committee, and is the Chair Emeritus of the New Democrat Coalition.