Corker Convenes Hearing On International Implications Of U.S. Trade Policy

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on Thursday convened a hearing on the implications of tariffs for U.S. foreign policy and the international economy. The hearing examined the domestic and international impact of recent trade actions by the administration, including the implementation of tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada, Mexico, and the European Union.

The committee heard testimony from Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs Manisha Singh, former White House Chief of Staff to President George W. Bush Josh Bolten, and Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Michael H. Fuchs.

 

“From the imposition of tariffs by abusing Section 232 authorities to threats to withdraw from long-standing trade agreements such as NAFTA, these actions are hurting our business and farm communities all around the country,” said Senator Corker. “They are damaging the international relationships we have spent decades building, casting doubt on the United States and our role as a global leader and a reliable partner…To my knowledge, not a single person is able to articulate where this is headed, nor what the plans are, nor what the strategy is. It seems to be a wake up, ready, fire, aim strategy. So, [the administration] need[s] to explain to us where this is going. The disruptions and costs of these tariffs are clear.”

 

On Wednesday, the Senate voted 88 to 11 in support of efforts by Senators Corker, Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Jeff Flake (R-Az.) to ensure Congress plays its appropriate role in the implementation of national security-designated tariffs. Corker reiterated his intention to push for passage of binding legislation reasserting the role of Congress in these decisions.

 

“We are holding this hearing today because of the vital need for congressional oversight over these actions,” said Senator Corker. “I’ve offered bipartisan legislation with Senators Flake, Johnson, Isakson, Shaheen and others for Congress to reclaim its appropriate role and responsibility with respect to setting tariff policy. The bill has attracted wide-ranging support from organizations representing business and agriculture across our country, and with an overwhelming vote of support for these efforts in the Senate yesterday, we will continue pushing for a binding vote on this legislation in the near future.”

 

Josh Bolten, who now represents the Business Roundtable, warned of the consequences for the U.S. from the administration’s approach on tariffs.

 

“The administration’s global Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum – now imposed on all but a few countries – are hurting the very workers and families the administration aims to protect while doing little to address a real problem in the global economy, which is overcapacity in steel,” said Mr. Bolten in his written testimony. “In addition to diminishing the economic benefits of the administration’s successful tax and regulatory policies, these tariffs – and resulting trade retaliation from other countries – will continue to impose tremendous costs on U.S. businesses and workers, erode U.S. global competitiveness and economic growth, and undermine key U.S. economic and security relationships. This is the wrong approach.”

 

Corker’s full remarks follow.

“We thank our witnesses and all of you for being here.

 

“We are going to consider the implications of recent trade actions by the administration, including the implementation of tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada, Mexico, and the European Union.

 

“I do not think it will come as a big surprise to anyone here that I am very concerned about the president’s trade policies, and I think we all should be.

 

“From the imposition of tariffs by abusing Section 232 authorities to threats to withdraw from long-standing trade agreements such as NAFTA, these actions are hurting our business and farm communities all around the country.

 

“They are damaging the international relationships we have spent decades building, casting doubt on the United States and our role as a global leader and a reliable partner.

 

“The tariffs imposed on imported steel and aluminum under Section 232 are already disrupting and damaging supply chains and business plans of numerous American businesses.

 

“These artificial distortions will continue to have real-world effects, including the possibility that many Americans could and will lose their jobs.

 

“Many of our companies risk losing markets carefully developed and cultivated over years to their foreign competitors.

 

“And now we await the outcome of another 232 investigation initiated by the president, this one to determine if foreign auto imports threaten our national security. 

 

“Don’t get me wrong. We do have significant trade challenges when it comes to China. And while we all agree on the need to ensure the international trade system is fair for American workers, companies, and consumers, I believe we should focus on building coalitions to confront longstanding threats such as Chinese theft of intellectual property instead of imposing 232 tariffs on our friends.

 

“Instead, these actions are alienating our close friends and allies such as Canada, Japan and Europe—partners we rely upon for far more than just economic security.

 

“The president has said that trade wars are winnable. Whether we win or lose, there is certain to be collateral damage to U.S. citizens and businesses along the way, as well as our place in the world.

 

“The administration needs to explain to Congress where this is all headed. I know many members have been over to meet with the president to talk about where this is headed. To my knowledge, not a single person is able to articulate where this is headed, nor what the plans are, nor what the strategy is. It seems to be a ‘wake up, ready, fire, aim’ strategy.

 

“So, they need to explain to us where this is going. The disruptions and costs of these tariffs are clear. How and when it does end and will we be better off as a result?

 

“The Constitution clearly establishes the power to collect duties and the power to regulate foreign commerce with Congress. 

 

“We are holding this hearing today because of the vital need for congressional oversight on these actions. 

 

“I’ve offered bipartisan legislation with Senators Flake, Johnson, Isakson, Shaheen and others on this committee for Congress to reclaim its appropriate role and responsibility with respect to setting tariff policy. The bill has attracted wide-ranging support from organizations representing business and agriculture across our country, and with an overwhelming vote of support for those efforts yesterday in the Senate, we will continue pushing for a binding vote on this legislation in the near future.”


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