Reps. Sewell, Kind Introduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Trade Security Act Aimed at Reforming National Security Tariffs
February 7, 2019
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Reps. Terri Sewell (AL-07) and Ron Kind (WI-3) introduced legislation Wednesday to empower Congress and the Department of Defense to ensure Section 232 tariffs are accurately applied to imports that threaten national security.
“Congress must reassert its trade authority and take steps to protect our manufacturers and farmers from the Trump administration’s reckless and isolationist trade policy,” Sewell said. “Alabama is home to auto manufacturers like Hyundai and Mercedes that employ nearly 40,000 hardworking men and women. The auto industry strengthens America; it doesn’t threaten it. I will continue to fight against the Trump administration’s misguided policies that threaten auto workers in Alabama.”
“This Administration’s go-it-alone approach of resolving our trade imbalances has sparked a trade war that is hurting Wisconsin farmers, workers, and families,” Kind said. “The National Security tariff process is being misused, at the cost of our rural and local economies. It is long-past time for Congress to reassert its constitutionally-granted power in our Nation’s trade policy and protect our export power.”
Currently, Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 gives the president authority to apply tariffs on imported of goods or materials from other countries if those imports threaten national security.
The Trade Security Act would reform Section 232 to increase Congressional oversight in the Section 232 process and reassign national security threat assessments to the Department of Defense.
The Trump administration has proposed dramatically raising tariffs on auto imports – from 2.5 to 25 percent – under Section 232, despite no evidence that auto imports are a threat to national security.
The tariffs would deal a devastating blow to Alabama, where auto manufacturers are a powerful driver of the local economy. Assembly plants operated by Mercedes, Honda and Hyundai have made the state a hub for car and light truck production. In 2018, Alabama automakers combined to produce around one million cars and light trucks. Toyota, Honda and Hyundai also produced nearly 1.6 million engines in 2018, another sign of the sector’s strength in the state.
Specifically, the bill will:
- Bifurcate the existing Section 232 process into an investigation phase, led by the Department of Defense, and a remedy phase, led by the Department of Commerce. Splitting these responsibilities, while guaranteeing consultation between the two departments at all stages of the process, plays to each department’s strengths to ensure that the statute is used for genuine national security purposes.
- Require the Department of Defense – instead of the Department of Commerce – to justify the national security basis for new tariffs under Section 232 and make the determination about the national security threat posed by imports of certain products. If a threat is found, the Department of Defense would send its report to the president. In the event that the president desires to take action based on the finding of a national security threat, the president would then direct the Secretary of Commerce, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense and the U.S. Trade Representative, to develop recommendations for how to respond to the threat. After receiving the recommendations of the Secretary of Commerce, the president would decide whether to take action.
- Increase the role of Congress in the Section 232 process by expanding the process whereby Congress can disapprove of a Section 232 action by passing a joint resolution of disapproval. Currently, Section 232 contains a disapproval resolution process limited only to the disapproval of actions on oil imports, which was inserted into Section 232 in 1980 by Congress in response to concerns about the misuse of the statute. This bill would expand the use of that disapproval resolution process to all types of products. The reformed disapproval process will only apply to future Section 232 actions.
- Require consultation with Congress throughout the Section 232 process.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) introduced the Senate companion to the bill.
A copy of the Trade Security Act can be found here.