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Senators seek to limit Trump’s tariff powers

Jun 06, 2018 | 10:59 AM | New York | Michael Roh

Tags  US Senate, tariffs, Section 232, aluminium, steel, auto, Michael Roh

A bill that would require the President of the United States to get approval from Congress before levying tariffs is being spearheaded by two US senators, and if passed would apply retroactively to all Section 232 tariffs levied over the past two years.

“The legislation will require the president to submit to Congress any proposal to adjust imports in the interest of national security under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962,” a source familiar with the bill confirmed to American Metal Market.

“For a 60-day period following submission, legislation to approve the proposal will qualify for expedited consideration, guaranteeing the opportunity for both debate and a vote. The requirement would apply to all Section 232 actions moving forward, as well as those taken within the past two years,” this source added.

The bill - which is being co-sponsored by Republican Senators Pat Toomey (Pennsylvania) and Bob Corker (Tennessee) - is expected to be introduced in the coming days, according to a second source familiar with the matter.

President Donald Trump’s Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminium imports have led prices for these metals to soar.

American Metal Market’s aluminium foundry alloy premium, a price closely watched by automakers, climbed to 15-17 cents per lb on May 11, up 60% from 9 to 11 cents per lb at the start of the year.

The assessment for hot-dipped galvanized steel coil rose to $54.75 per hundredweight on May 31, up 17% from $46.75 per hundredweight at the beginning of January.

Automakers and other industries that are dependent on a stable and cheap supply of these feedstock metals have been particularly hard hit.

The disruptive impact on business has been felt most in states that depend on automotive manufacturing, such as Tennessee. Auto manufacturing jobs represent one-third of the state’s manufacturing employment, according to Lamar Alexander, the state's senior senator.

A separate Section 232 investigation on automobiles and automotive part imports was launched on May 23, prompting Corker to speak out against the action.

Corker had alluded to the impending bill on his Twitter account just days ago.

“I am working with like-minded Republican senators on ways to push back on the president using authorities in ways never intended and that are damaging to our country and our allies. Will Democrats join us?” Corker asked in a June 2 tweet.

Toomey had also criticized the tariffs months ago.

“The US only imports 2% of its steel from China. Changing course from this approach by invoking national security as a means of imposing new, huge tariffs on all kinds of imported steel is a big mistake that will increase costs on American consumers, cost our country jobs and invite retaliation from other countries,” Toomey said in a statement on March 1.

Indeed, some steel and aluminium exporting countries have retaliated in line with the senator’s predictions by levying tariffs on certain US exports, including steel.


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