WASHINGTON—The Alliance for American Manufacturing has sent an open letter to Congress, urging members to oppose a bill that would limit the president's ability to levy tariffs against foreign goods.
The Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act of 2019 would reduce the president's authority to order tariffs under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962.
Under Section 232, the president may levy tariffs against foreign products he deems as threats to national security. The BCTAA would require the president to submit all Section 232 requests to Congress for approval.
"This misguided legislation dangerously weakens Section 232," said the Feb. 12 letter signed by AAM President Scott Paul.
The BCTAA would not only eliminate an important national security trade tool, but also threaten to repeal the tariffs against imported steel and aluminum issued in March 2018, Paul said.
The AAM, a partnership founded in 2007 between manufacturing interests and the United Steelworkers union, is a vocal supporter of the Section 232 tariffs on imported steel and aluminum.
Among other things, the BCTAA would narrow the definition of "national security" to pertain only to those goods with applications in military equipment, energy resources or infrastructure.
"By narrowing the definition of 'national security,' this misguided legislation fails to recognize that a functioning commercial market is necessary for domestic producers to be able to meet the irregular but critical demands of our national defense," Paul said.
Paul also objected to the BCTAA's transferring responsibility for Section 232 investigations from the Commerce Department to the Pentagon.
This change, he said, "similarly diminishes the importance of properly functioning commercial markets. Meanwhile, the Department of Defense, often under pressure to cut costs without regard for the health of our defense industrial base, does not have the expertise of the Commerce Department to assess the health of domestic companies and the impact of imports."
The Feb. 12 letter puts the AAM in opposition to organizations such as the Auto Care Association, the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association, the Specialty Equipment Market Association and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.
Those associations were among 29 business organizations that co-signed a Jan. 30 letter to Congress supporting the BCTAA.
"This legislation…is critically needed in order to ensure a proper weighing of the overall national interest before tariffs or quotas go into effect," the letter said.