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New trade coalition seeks stronger congressional tariff control

Tariff Reform Coalition members want the Senate Finance Committee and House Ways and Means Committee to “exercise greater oversight and control” over President Trump’s tariff authority.

Twenty-two trade groups across myriad U.S. industries have formed a coalition to work with Congress to “exercise greater oversight and control” over U.S. President Donald Trump’s tariff authority.

“Our objective is to work with you to pass appropriate tariff reform legislation as soon as possible,” the Tariff Reform Coalition told the Senate Finance Committee and House Ways and Means Committee chairmen and ranking members in a Sept. 18 letter.

The coalition members warned the congressional committees that “the [Trump] administration’s overreliance on unilateral tariff increases to address a wide range of policy problems is upsetting the historic balance between congressional and executive powers.”

Under the U.S. Constitution, Congress has the power to regulate U.S. international trade and how it manages the delegation of tariff authority to the president. The coalition said Congress should expect “meaningful consultations” with the White House before tariffs are imposed.

“It is clear that many of the [Trump] administration’s tariff actions over the past two years have had significant collateral effects on domestic prices and have led to extensive retaliation against our exports,” the coalition wrote. “We do not believe Congress was sufficiently apprised of these effects.”

Since March 2018, President Trump has ordered upwards of $550 billion in U.S. import tariffs for Chinese products, with China responding in kind by imposing its own tariffs on U.S. goods. Many American manufacturers and farmers say they are now taking a financial hit from China’s retaliatory tariffs.

The coalition asked the committees to review the president’s tariff policies.

“We believe Congress should strongly consider revisions designed to clarify the circumstances in which executive action is justified under these statutes and to introduce appropriate congressional review prior to implementation of new tariffs,” the coalition said.

The Association of Equipment Manufacturers, Association of Global Automakers, Farmers for Free Trade, Grocery Manufacturers Association, National Foreign Trade Council, National Retail Federation, Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association, and U.S. Fashion Industry Association are among the members of the Tariff Reform Coalition.

“We need our government to focus on supporting pro-manufacturing policies instead of policies undermining America’s economy,” said Association of Equipment Manufacturers President Dennis Slater in a statement. “It’s time for Congress to exercise greater oversight of this administration’s use of tariffs, and that’s the mission of this new coalition that we’re joining today.”

Chris Gillis

Located in the Washington, D.C. area, Chris Gillis primarily reports on regulatory and legislative topics that impact cross-border trade. He joined American Shipper in 1994, shortly after graduating from Mount St. Mary’s College in Emmitsburg, Md., with a degree in international business and economics.