The power to impose tariffs and regulate foreign commerce is not granted to the executive branch, but rather to Congress under Article 1, Section 8 of the United States Constitution. Presidents are granted the power to negotiate international trade agreements, but that does not include imposing tariffs. Yet over the years, Congress has consistently allowed the President to raise tariffs and restrict imports, heeding much of its congressional authority to the executive branch.

Congress must reassert its authority through the Global Trade Accountability Act, S. 177, introduced by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT). This important piece of legislation will reinforce Congressional oversight and accountability of any trade decisions made by the Executive Branch.  Americans for Tax Reform along with 13 other free market groups wrote a letter to members of Congress urging them to support S.177, the Global Trade Accountability Act. Read the letter here or below.

Congress will be able to ensure that we don’t head down the path of protectionism we once historically did. There is a reason why our nation was set up to have checks and balances.  This piece of legislation is merely reaffirming the principles our nation has already established.

It is imperative that the U.S. pursues the best trade policy possible and strengthens international trade relations.  International trade is directly linked to millions of jobs across all 50 states. In 46 of the 50 states, trade-related jobs account for more than one-quarter of ALL jobs. In total, more than 1 in 5 jobs, or close to 41 million are reliant on trade. In fact, these workers earn 15-20 percent more than jobs in industries not tied to trade. Free trade is critical to the American economy and is an essential component to guaranteeing a high standard of living for all Americans.

Open Letter to the House and Senate:

Protect Families and Businesses from Unnecessary Tax Increases: Enact the Global Trade Accountability Act


February 2, 2017


To Members of Congress:

We the undersigned free market organizations, representing millions of hardworking Americans, urge you to support S. 177, the “Global Trade Accountability Act,” introduced by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT). If enacted, the legislation would strengthen Congressional oversight and accountability of trade-related decisions made by the Executive Branch.

Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution gives Congress the authority to impose tariffs and regulate foreign commerce. Article II of the Constitution gives the President the power to negotiate international trade agreements. Over time, Congress has ceded much of its authority to establish and raise tariffs and restrict imports to the Executive Branch as long as certain conditions are met. This current arrangement gives the Executive Branch virtual carte blanche to raise tariffs or otherwise restrict imports in a manner that could trigger a costly and unnecessary trade war.

Consistent with Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, and similar in process to the REINS Act, the Global Trade Accountability Act would require Congressional approval of proposed Executive Branch trade measures aimed at raising tariffs or restricting imports.  In short, it would allow Congress to assert its Constitutional authority over trade policy when appropriate.

Trade policy has been unfairly maligned in recent years, but make no mistake: protectionism has an ugly history in the United States. The Smoot-Hawley tariffs of 1930 deepened and prolonged the Great Depression. Since World War II, however, a bipartisan consensus emerged and the United States began working to liberalize foreign trade between nations. This has paid enormous dividends both domestically and abroad. Regrettably, the specter of protectionism is higher today than it has been at any point since the Depression. The Global Trade Accountability Act can prevent the United States from slouching toward protectionism. That is why we strongly urge you to pass S. 177, the Global Trade Accountability Act.


Brandon Arnold, Executive Vice President
National Taxpayers Union

Grover Norquist, President
Americans for Tax Reform

Norm Singleton, President
Campaign for Liberty

David McIntosh, President
Club for Growth

Iain Murray, Vice President of Strategy
Competitive Enterprise Institute

Adam Brandon, President

Matt Kibbe, President
Free the People

Tom Giovanetti, President
Institute for Policy Innovation

Lisa Nelson, President
The Jefferson Project

Jerry Taylor, President
Niskanen Center

Lori Sanders, Outreach Director
R Street Institute

David Williams, President
Taxpayers Protection Alliance

Berin Szoka, President