US business lobby group seeks to curb Trump’s tariff powers
A group of lobby organisations for American business is mounting a new effort to rein in Donald Trump’s powers to unilaterally impose tariffs, amid growing concern about the economic and financial impact of his trade policies.The National Foreign Trade Council — whose board includes a wide range of blue-chip companies from Facebook to FedEx and Ford — on Wednesday announced it was spearheading a new coalition to pressure the US Congress to reassert its constitutional powers on trade policy and make it harder for the White House to move without lawmakers’ consent.“Not since the 1930s has our country relied so heavily on tariffs in an attempt to pick winners in the US market while overlooking the broader consequences for other industries and our economy as a whole,” said Rufus Yerxa, a former deputy USTR under both George HW Bush and Bill Clinton, and now NFTC president. The new group — called the Tariff Reform Coalition — was launched with a letter to the top congressional leaders with jurisdiction over trade, demanding lawmakers act to curb presidential powers on trade.“The longstanding balance between Congress and the Executive Branch in managing US trade policy is crucial to our economic well-being . . . It is therefore critical to reassert that balance and ensure that it works effectively to maintain America’s much needed leadership in the 21st century global economy,” the letter said.Lobbying groups representing global automakers, retailers, farmers and metal manufacturers all signed on to the letter. The move exposes the growing frustration in corporate America with the inability or unwillingness of Congress to take on Mr Trump on trade, even as he has levied tens of billions of dollars in tariffs on imports from foreign nations, particularly China. Previous efforts to restrain Mr Trump’s authorities on tariffs have floundered as Republicans have been reluctant to restrain their own leader, and many Democrats are sympathetic to the imposition of trade-restricting measures. However, should Mr Trump continue to ramp up tariffs and tariff threats, particularly should he impose levies on foreign automotive imports later this year, the damage to the sector in the US would be too meaningful to be ignored.