Then-candidate Donald Trump gave voice to the concerns of millions of American workers regarding how trade agreements can adversely impact domestic job growth and disrupt industries abroad. The President’s commitment to put America first in trade is a commendable step in fulfilling his promise to American workers. Now, Congress needs to join the fight to ensure these efforts effectively move forward.
The House Freedom Caucus (HFC) also recognized fears surrounding trade in the lead-up to the 2016 election. One of the earliest high-profile fights for the HFC was over “trade promotion authority.” Members felt that TPA gave President Obama too much power to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership and left Congress without the ability to exercise sufficient oversight. While HFC members support free trade, the Obama administration’s statements calling the TPP the “most progressive trade deal the world has ever seen” gave many of them pause.
The Constitution clearly gives the legislative branch the responsibility of regulating commerce, as well as laying taxes and duties, with foreign nations. Congress surrendered that Article I authority to unaccountable bureaucrats over years of shirking this tough responsibility. The Global Trade Accountability Act would restore Congress’s ability, and responsibly, to do its Constitutional job. President Trump is doing his job and Congress should do its job.
Congress must pass the Global Trade Accountability Act. This bill requires congressional approval of any unilateral trade restriction, thereby guaranteeing the American people have a voice in sweeping trade actions. Similar to the REINS Act, and the Article One Restoration Act introduced by Congressman Davidson, this legislation would codify the role of congressional oversight in the process of federal governance.
The bill does give temporary authority for unilateral trade actions for ninety days without congressional approval if the president determines the action is necessary. This is for reasons such as a national emergency, imminent threat to health or safety, enforcement of criminal laws or for national security.
Workers in Ohio and across the country deserve better than a Congress that abdicates its responsibility when trade issues arise.
While the Constitutional significance of this bill predates and extends far beyond current trade policy, let’s look at how it would work. When President Trump proposed targeted sanctions on washing machines and solar panels, Congress would review those restrictions. Hearing from constituents in every District and in every sector, Congress would have a say on targeted actions like this to address clearly unfair practices largely by South Korea and China. These actions would either proceed as proposed or not.
When President Trump initially proposed uniform tariffs on steel and aluminum, Congress engaged with the President. Based on the strong working relationship, and consistent feedback from Congress, the President softened that position. Today, these tariffs include exemptions for Canada and Mexico – and continue to allow for additional exemptions. Future Congresses and future Presidents may not have that same rapport.
Now is the time – with a unified House, Senate, and White House – to restore proper Constitutional balance to the hardworking people of America.
There is evidence that President Trump recognizes these shortcomings, and is using tariffs as a negotiating tactic – particularly with Mexico and Canada as the U.S. renegotiates NAFTA. But the Trump administration needs to be cautious: The Republican Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is growing in popularity because it was good policy that put more money back in peoples’ pockets and is spurring economic growth. Blanket tariffs threaten to undo that progress.
The Trump administration and Congress should aggressively protect American intellectual property from outright theft, and from a more surreptitious theft of subsidized competition, that targets not just American industries, but specific American companies. Consequently, a targeted effort to combat Chinese steel dumping, which especially has an impact on electrical steel, is something that the U.S. must find a way to counter. The U.S. steel industry depends on the full and fair enforcement of trade laws and continuing to ignore the rightful role that Congress should play in that conversation would be irresponsible.
Workers in Ohio and across the country should have a say in our trade policies. The Global Trade Accountability Act gives Congress the power to ensure that they do.
Congressman Warren Davidson (R-OH) was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in a June 2016 special election. Adam Brandon is the president of FreedomWorks, a nonprofit group that advocates for limited government and free markets.