Sen. Warner introduces legislation to limit national security-designated trade tariffs

mark warnerU.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and a member of the Senate Banking and Finance Committees, along with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN) and Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Pat Toomey (R-PA), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Jeff Flake (R-AZ), introduced bipartisan legislation that would require the White House to seek Congressional approval before issuing tariffs designated in the interest of national security.

This authority was originally granted to the President by Congress under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 and is a tool that has only rarely been used to restrict foreign imports.

President Trump has used this provision to impose steel and aluminum tariffs that target imports from some of the United States’ closest allies like Mexico, Canada, and the European Union. As a result, businesses that make products containing these materials, such as Virginia craft beer producers, expect to see increased production costs that will likely mean higher prices for Virginia consumers. In addition, some of these countries have announced they plan to impose retaliatory tariffs on key Virginia agricultural exports. This week, Mexico announced it will be placing a 20 percent tariff on pork imports, a step that will directly hurt Virginia farmers who exported roughly $68 million in pork to that country last year.

“While I believe that we should hold China accountable for unfair trade practices and I support strong trade enforcement rules that protect American workers, the President should not be relying on an obscure provision of a trade law intended to uphold national security in order to impose tariffs on our allies. Instead, he should focus on building international coalitions to hold bad actors accountable and protect American workers,” said Sen. Warner.

“While we all agree on the need to ensure the international trade system is fair for American workers, companies and consumers, unfortunately, the administration is abusing the Section 232 authority delegated to the president by Congress,” said Sen. Corker. “Making claims regarding national security to justify what is inherently an economic question not only harms the very people we all want to help and impairs relations with our allies but also could invite our competitors to retaliate. If the president truly believes invoking Section 232 is necessary to protect the United States from a genuine threat, he should make the case to Congress and to the American people and do the hard work necessary to secure congressional approval.”

The bill requires the president to submit to Congress any proposal to adjust imports in the interest of national security under Section 232. For a 60-day period following submission, legislation to approve the proposal will qualify for expedited consideration, guaranteeing the opportunity for debate and a vote. The requirement would apply to all Section 232 actions moving forward, as well as those taken within the past two years.

Sen. Warner, along with Sen. Kaine, has previously raised concerns about how President Trump’s trade war could hurt Virginia businesses and employees, listing the set ofproducts grown and made in Virginia that have been targeted by the Chinese for duties. Both Senators also wrote to the Administration warning that withdrawing from the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)—another significant source of agricultural exports for Virginia—would negatively impact Virginia’s agricultural industry.

A copy of the legislation can be found here.


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