News reports indicate that several House Republicans have been working on legislation (the “United States Reciprocal Trade Act”) that will expand the executive branch’s authority over levying tariffs against other countries. The bill would permit the executive branch to unilaterally negotiate trade agreements with other countries and levy tariffs if he determines there are trade barriers negatively impacting the sale of U.S. goods. Congress should reject this legislation.
President Trump is entirely correct in his desire to help American businesses and workers with better trade deals with foreign countries. However, tariffs and trade wars are counterproductive to this goal.
Tariffs destabilize markets and harm American manufacturing. Instead of punishing foreign countries for manipulative trade practices, tariffs punish American workers and businesses by artificially inflating prices. While tariffs may give a short-term boost to domestic manufacturers (like steel and aluminum manufacturers), every industry using those materials will pass the higher prices on to consumers.
The facts are clear: tariffs cost jobs and increase prices for everyday consumers. They are a net loser for the United States.
The Constitution gives Congress the authority to negotiate trade deals with other countries. Article I Section 8 gives Congress the power to “To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States.” For decades, Congress has abdicated this and other responsibilities to the Executive Branch to disastrous effect.
Passing the Reciprocal Trade Act into law would only further enable the Executive Branch to amass more power over international trade. Congress should reject this legislation and reassert its commitment to checks and balances as laid out in the Constitution.