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Bill to Restrict Authority of the President on Tariffs Introduced


Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, Trade Subcommittee has introduced the Reclaiming Congressional Trade Authority Act.  This would limit the authority of any administration to impose tariffs on national security grounds to a duration of 120 days unless confirmed by Congress. The proposed legislation would encompass Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, the International Emergency Economic Powers Act or the Trading with the Enemy Act . The Trade Authority Act introduced into the House parallels similar legislation in the Senate introduced by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA).


The Bill would require any administration to provide Congress with the objective of any proposed tariffs imposed under Section 301 of the U.S. Trade Act of 1974.  Congress would be able to block tariffs through a joint resolution of disapproval.


Legislation restricting the powers of the President to unilaterally impose tariffs is supported by the National Retail Federation.  The Senior Vice-president for Government Relations, David French commented, “We agree with the need to deliver fair and balanced trade deals but taxing Americans isn’t the answer – especially without a single vote from Congress.”  He added, “This legislation represents an important step forward.  We urge members of both parties to join this effort and protect hard-working Americans from a growing trade war that could destroy thousands of jobs and raise costs for families across the country.”


The National Retail Federation is a leading opponent of tariffs emphasizing that they are effectively taxes imposed on consumers.  Tariffs also increase the cost of parts and materials used to manufacture items in the U.S., reducing company margins and eventually leading to layoffs.


Prior to the June meeting between President Trump and President Xi at the G-20 Summit in Osaka, the National Retail Federation determined that the proposed tariff on an additional $300 billion on goods imported from China would add $4.4 billion annually for apparel, $3.7 billion for toys, $2.5 billion for footwear and $1.6 billion for household appliances.  Currently tariffs of 25 percent have been imposed on $250 billion in items imported from China.  These tariffs will remain, the proposed tariffs on the additional $300 billion in imports has been deferred while trade talks continue.


China has indicated that some concessions on structural issues will be offered in negotiations but progress will only be made if existing tariffs are relaxes or rescinded. It appears that the trade dispute has assumed the proportions of a stalemate to the mutual detriment of both nations.