Congress should not give President Donald Trump more latitude to impose tariffs at will.
More than most states, Washington has suffered the collateral damage of President Donald Trump’s fickle trade policies. Our manufacturers, creators and farmers know better than most that the last thing Congress should do is give the president even more latitude.
In his State of the Union address, Trump asked Congress to pass the United States Reciprocal Trade Act. That obscure bill would empower the president to increase tariffs on imports almost at will.
When the president interferes in global trade markets without a coherent strategy, Washington feels the impacts. This is a globally connected state, especially to Asia. China, Japan and South Korea are among our top trading partners, and 40 percent of all jobs in the state are trade-related. Imports and exports pass through our harbors and airports. Our manufacturers and programmers sell to markets around the globe. And our agricultural industry feeds people worldwide.
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Trump rolled into office promising he would be a tough trade negotiator and would cancel trade deals he said weren’t fair to Americans.
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The Trans-Pacific Partnership was first on the chopping block. He withdrew from America’s best chance to protect intellectual property and create a trading bloc to counter China’s growing influence in the Pacific. After Trump pulled out, the remaining 11 nations went ahead without the United States.
Now other nations want to sign on to the TPP. The United Kingdom, perhaps looking for new trading partners with Brexit looming, wants in. So do South Korea, Thailand and Indonesia. America is on the sidelines.
Trump also ignited a trade war with China by imposing $250 billion worth of tariffs on Chinese goods. China, of course, responded in kind.
The Washington Council on International Trade reports that the tit-for-tat tariffs have particularly hurt Washington apple, cherry and potato growers as well as wine, beer and spirits makers. Through October of last year, the most recent data available, Washington producers faced $127 million in new retaliatory tariffs and declining exports.
In the State of the Union, Trump bragged that his tariffs have generated billions of dollars for federal coffers. Unsaid was the fact that American consumers paid most of that because importers pass along the costs. His tariffs are little better than a stealth tax increase.
Washington’s congressional delegation must make sure that its colleagues understand the real impacts of Trump’s trade war. Don’t give him more power; demand more oversight. Require congressional approval for new tariffs, an idea that even the business community supports as a necessary check on the president’s trade whims.
America has crossed the threshold for giving Trump’s policies the benefit of the doubt. They aren’t working.