WASHINGTON— Ed Gerwin, Senior Fellow for Trade and Global Opportunity at the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI), today released the following statement in response to the introduction of the bipartisan, bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act:
PPI welcomes the introduction of the Congressional Trade Authority Act by Representatives Ron Kind (D-WI) and Michael Gallagher (R-WI) and Senators Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Mark Warner (D-VA). We urge Congress to enact this responsible and balanced legislation.
The bill would amend the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 to provide Congress with new tools to oversee and either approve or reject the use of tariffs or other trade restrictions for national security purposes. Under the bill, national security trade restrictions proposed by the president would require congressional approval under an expedited, 60-day procedure. National security tariffs imposed within the past four years would also, retroactively, be subject to congressional review. Other reforms in the bill would include tightening the definition of “national security” to prevent the abuse of congressionally delegated powers to restrict trade for security reasons.
As PPI has explained in a recent policy brief, legislation like the Congressional Trade Authority Act is needed to restore an appropriate balance between Congress and the president in the exercise of trade and tariff powers.
Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution empowers Congress to “lay and collect . . . duties” and “regulate commerce with foreign nations.” For almost a century, in exercising these powers, Congress has delegated significant authority to the president, including the power to restrict import trade for national security reasons.
Past presidents have generally used these delegated security powers prudently. The Trump Administration has not. Instead, it’s imposed “national security” tariffs and quotas on imports of aluminum and steel from longstanding U.S. allies with scant security justification. And the President has threatened to impose “national security” tariffs—to be paid ultimately by American drivers—on imported autos, as well. As PPI has detailed, the Administration’s unfocused tariffs and trade restrictions have cost jobs for American workers, raised prices for American families, increased costs for businesses and state and local governments, and led to crushing retaliation against American exports.
When he signed the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, President Kennedy advocated building stronger trade alliances and warned against “stagnating behind tariff walls.” At the same time, as PPI has explained in the context of China’s technology theft, smart and targeted trade restrictions are sometimes required to address critical national security threats. Congress has crucial roles to play in both promoting open trade and protecting national security. The balanced reforms contained in the Congressional Trade Authority Act would help Congress better exercise these important responsibilities.