Trade Groups Press Congress for More Oversight of Trump Tariffs

(Bloomberg) -- A group of almost 60 business associations is urging Congress to exert more oversight of President Donald Trump’s use of tariffs as the U.S. lurches closer to a trade war with China and other trading partners.

Organizations including the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the National Retail Federation and the National Corn Growers Association sent a letter to the chairmen and top Democrat on both the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means committees calling for “a robust congressional response” to the Trump tariffs. That includes hearings and possible restrictions on a president’s power on trade, the groups said.

“We strongly believe that, in order to change the current path that the administration has chosen to take on trade, Congress must reassert itself and oversee our country’s trade policy, especially the use of unilateral tariffs,” Rufus Yerxa, president of the National Foreign Trade Council, which helped lead the effort, said in a statement.

“As is evidenced by the broad group of trade associations who signed this letter, every sector of the economy is feeling the effects of the administration’s current trade policy, which hurts far more workers and consumers than it could ever help,” Yerxa said.

Balance of Branches

The groups applauded Wednesday’s scheduled hearing by the Senate Finance Committee on tariffs that is to feature Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and said Congress must reassert the balance between the legislative and executive branches on trade authority.

Trump has imposed duties on steel and aluminum imports in the name of national security and is vowing to slap additional tariffs on Chinese imports in response to allegations of theft of intellectual property. Beijing has promised to retaliate “forcefully.”

Last week, Senate Republican leaders tamped down a drive by retiring Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee to curtail Trump’s ability to impose tariffs on trade partners, blocking his effort to get a vote on the proposal.

The associations said in the letter, which was sent late Monday, that tariffs harm the U.S. economy, consumers and workers by driving up the cost of products and drawing punishing retaliation that hurt American exporters.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.