Can Congress Stop the Tariffs War?

Photo by Max Pixel

President Trump has decided to impose tariffs on countries exporting aluminum and steel to the U.S. The American Constitution has given Congress the ability to impose and collect tariffs. The Constitution provides the President with the authority to negotiate agreements with other nations, but does not give him power over international trade agreements. But wait!

There’s this: The International Emergency Economic Powers Act of 1977. This gives the president the authority to impose tariffs on other countries in a “National Emergency.” Unfortunately, the definition of an emergency is vague. For example, losing manufacturing jobs to China and Mexico might qualify as a National Emergency. Additionally, the justice system has never rejected a president’s decision on this issue. The International Emergency Economic Powers Act of 1977 has been used against Nicaragua, Panama, Somalia, and Sierra Leone. In these cases, the act was used in situations few would describe as an emergency, or extraordinary threat.

Republicans on Capitol Hill were shocked, including Paul Ryan. They were given no heads up about Trump’s decision to impose European tariffs. Normally, legislative leaders would have been briefed ahead of time for such a major change of policy. However, that didn’t happen.

“Can congress stop this process by declaring there is no national emergency?”

According to White House staff, the decision to start a trade war was the result of anger at other issues (Hope Hicks resignation, the Mueller Investigation focusing more on what Trump knew). On Wednesday evening, according to one official, Trump became “unglued!” The president announced his decision without any kind of internal review by his White House lawyers or his staff, according to an internal White House document.

During the primaries, Donald Trump made no secret he wanted to implement protectionist trade policies. He has tweeted aluminum and steel manufacturing in the United States has been “decimated by decades of unfair trade and bad policy.” On Friday, he defended the plan to place huge tariffs on imported aluminum and steel. GOP criticism was intense and there is a growing potential for global backlash. This plan has been rationalized with the statement,”trade wars are good, and easy to win.” Most economists disagree.

The real concern is a tariff war, with prices of cars and beer cans, etc. increasing in cost. A tariff war ultimately harms U.S. companies, their employees, and American consumers.

“Can congress stop this process by declaring there is no national emergency?”

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Keith D. Foote

Keith is also a freelance writer. He has written an alternative physics book titled the Ultra-Space Field Theory, and 2 sci-fi novels. Keith has been following politics, and political promises, for the last forty years. He gave up his car, preferring to bicycle and use public transport. Keith enjoys yoga, mini adventures, spirituality, and chocolate ice cream.