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Congress must provide a check on harmful tariffs

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Despite fierce opposition, Congress and President Trump enacted one of the boldest tax reform packages in a generation. It wasn’t perfect, but just as supporters predicted, the new tax law has helped unleash the power of the American economy. 

For the first time in a long time, we have a healthy economy that’s firing on all cylinders. The 213,000 new jobs the United States added in June and steadily rising wages are the latest signs that tax reform is working for all Americans. In fact, there are now more jobs available than people to fill them

{mosads}Given this amazing run, why would the president put it all at risk by imposing tariffs that hike prices for consumers on everyday goods, increase costs on businesses, and put U.S. jobs in jeopardy?

The administration slapped a new 25 percent tariff July 6 on $34 billion of imports from China. Of course, China immediately retaliated. Each country has another $16 billion in additional tariffs teed up. And now the administration announced it is targeting a new 10 percent tariff on a whopping $200 billion worth of imports from China. 

The administration argues tariffs are a necessary negotiating tactic meant to bring partners to the negotiating table. 

But China isn’t negotiating. Instead, it has promised swift retaliation to this latest threat. Canada and Mexico responded to the steel tariffs with retaliation rather than returning to the NAFTA negotiating table.

In this kind of escalating tit-for-tat trade war there are no winners.

Like a real war, be careful of friendly fire.

The Trade Partnership Worldwide found that trade supports 36 million American jobs. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates that tariffs could cost as many as 2.6 million American jobs, and that doesn’t count the latest $200 billion round of tariffs. The headlines are filled with stories about businesses reeling with these decisions today. The last thing we need is more self-inflicted casualties.

A 25 percent tariff on steel, for example, means that any business using steel in its products will pay more for it. It will then face several bad choices—spend time and money trying to find substitutes, lay-off workers or increase prices. 

It’s hard to keep up with the mounting lists of imports and exports subjected to tariffs. Canada’s retaliatory tariffs hit goods from steel and aluminum, to boats, paper towels and food. Mexico’s hit cranberries, apples and even bourbon. China’s tariffs are already hurting soybean farmers across the heartland. These are only some of the hundreds of items subjected to retaliation, which hurt a vast array of American producers and farmers who sell outside the U.S.

This is the opposite of the optimism we saw earlier this year, when businesses across the country announced bonuses, pay rises and increased wages in the wake of tax relief for taxpayers and job creators.

That’s because tariffs are the anti-tax reform; they are tax increases

Given the high stakes involved, it is past time for Congress to act. This burgeoning trade war threatens us and some of our biggest trading partners. A number of lawmakers have taken steps to do just that.

The Senate just voted overwhelmingly in support of efforts to give Congress a role in imposing any tariffs for national security reasons.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio) introduced the Global Trade Accountability Act, which is even broader, in their respective legislative chambers. It would subject all unilateral executive branch action restricting trade – including tariffs – to congressional approval.

Requiring approval from Congress before imposing trade barriers would reclaim some of legislative branch’s trade authority found in Article I Section 8 of the Constitution. Over the years, too much was ceded to the executive branch. The president would be able to negotiate trade agreements, including addressing China’s problems with intellectual property and forced technology transfers. But harmful policies like tariffs would require a congressional check and balance. One consistent with the Constitution. 

This kind of congressional approval is especially necessary when the administration imposes tariffs based on dubious “national security” reasons. National security concerns should only be invoked when appropriate and as a last resort, not as a convenient workaround to address trade issues.

Trade is a winning strategy for America. Tariffs and other trade barriers are not.

Alison Acosta Winters is a senior policy fellow at Americans for Prosperity.

Tags Donald Trump Mike Lee Tariffs Warren Davidson

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