Congress Turns its Attention to Tariffs as New Reports Show Damage to U.S. Industry Sectors

With the shutdown temporarily ended, Congress turned its attention to other issues including trade. Two bills were introduced in Congress aimed at reining in the President’s power to impose Section 232 (national security) trade restrictions.

The Bicameral Trade Authority Act, introduced by Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA), would give Congress more control over Section 232 investigations. The Coalition of American Metal Manufacturers and Users supports the legislation (PMA is a founding member of the Coalition) as the bill contains provisions that would allow Congress to review and terminate 232 tariffs already in place, namely the steel and aluminum tariffs.

Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) reintroduced the Trade Security Act of 2019, a bill that would move Section 232 national security investigations to the Department of Defense and provide Congress more oversight of Section 232 investigations. However, Senator Portman’s bill would only apply to future Section 232 investigations so the steel and aluminum tariffs would remain in place. Both bills are indications of growing unease in Congress with the President’s steel and aluminum tariffs.

Also this week, two reports were released on the impact of tariffs on manufacturers. The North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers (NAFEM) released a survey on the impact of the Section 232 and Section 301 tariffs on their members, who are foodservice equipment and supplies manufacturers. The survey showed that 56 percent of NAFEM members reported that tariffs on imported steel and aluminum have impaired their ability to compete, and 47 percent said these tariffs are hurting sales.

The group Tariffs Hurt the Heartland released a study that the current tariffs (Section 301 and Section 232), combined with possible new Section 232 tariffs on autos and auto parts, would lead to 2.2 million job losses. The result of the jobs lost indicate the average family of four would lose their tax reform savings and pay $2,389 more for goods and services. This study was funded by Farmers for Free Trade and Americans for Free Trade. Overall, both studies show the significant damage that tariffs are doing to U.S. manufacturers and other industry sectors.

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