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Trump's Tarrifs Are Hurting the Economy. Here's How to Get Rid of Them For Good.

Anthony DiMauro

Anthony DiMauro

Trade,

Could this work?

Trump's Tarrifs Are Hurting the Economy. Here's How to Get Rid of Them For Good.

What if the president could define what constitutes a national security threat and enact policy concurrent with that determination? And what if, because of that, he were allowed to levy indirect taxes on the America people from his seat in the Oval Office? By way of the Cold War-era Section 232 of the 1962 Trade Expansion Act, both of those realities exist.

Under Section 232, any U.S. head or agency has the authority to initiate investigations of imports as they relate to national security threats. It’s a process that can be entirely self-initiated by the executive branch. But currently, there’s no working definition of what a national security threat is, and that the determination is made by the Department of Commerce, which has allowed for far too much executive power bloat in matters of trade policy. 

For his part, President Donald Trump has certainly taken advantage of this ambiguity—most recently with his ill-advised steel and aluminum tariffs. If lawmakers want to enforce both constitutional uses of power and consumer-friendly policy, they should reduce the scope of this legislation by supporting restorative legislation as seen through a recently-proposed by Sen. Patrick Toomey. 

How does this section facilitate executive overreach? Vague guidelines. The Section 232 provisions don’t specify what constitutes a national security threat, only that the investigation must consider

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