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American Shipper

Vote to limit presidential import power blocked

Ohio senator points to ongoing negotiations with the Trump administration on exempting Canada and Mexico from steel and aluminum tariffs.

   Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, on Wednesday blocked a vote on an amendment to the 2018 Farm Bill that would have required congressional approval for any presidential action to adjust imports on the basis of national security pursuant to Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962.
   He said on the Senate floor that the amendment, originally introduced earlier this month by Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., as a standalone bill, would have jeopardized passage of the Farm Bill and undone “a decades-old statute that is one of the few tools we have to defend our national security interests against distortions in the global market.”
   Brown said he is negotiating with the Trump administration for a “solution” on the application of Section 232 steel and aluminum tariffs to Canada and Mexico that took effect June 1, noting that he shares colleagues’ concerns about Section 232 tariffs imposed against those nations, but that the U.S. has to guard against Chinese trans-shipment through those “primary targets” because of their proximity.
   “I talked to [U.S. Trade Representative Robert] Lighthizer last night,” Brown said on Wednesday. “We are in a holding pattern with the NAFTA talks until Mexico’s election on July 1. But soon after that election, the NAFTA talks will pick right back up and steel and aluminum tariffs will be part of that dialogue.”
   Brown said the tariffs have been “effective,” noting Republic Steel on Tuesday announced one of its steel rolling mills in Lorain, Ohio, would restart operations in September.
   “I know some of my colleagues who support the Corker amendment will say they would support the president’s actions if they were targeted just to China,” Brown said. “They think the Corker amendment is necessary because the president has applied tariffs to our allies. But steel overcapacity is a global problem and it needs a global solution.”
   Corker said in a statement Wednesday that he will continue to fight for passage of his provision and said he is “hopeful” for a vote in the “near future.”
   “What the senator from Ohio is doing is saying that the Senate should not even vote on a measure to alleviate the pain that Americans are going to feel, the jobs that are going to be lost over the next couple of months as this trade war continues, and I’m just disappointed,” Corker said during floor debate on Wednesday.
   Brown’s blockage is likely to frustrate some business groups, after more than 270 of them on Tuesday wrote a letter to the Senate urging support for Corker’s legislation.
   Corker also had worked to insert the language as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, which passed the Senate earlier this month. But Senate GOP leadership ultimately declined to raise the provisions for a vote.

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