New bill proposes congressional review of tariffs; SC manufacturers disagree

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Amid a flurry of national reports naming everything from model trains to Bibles as casualties of the White House’s trade war with China, Joe Cunningham, a Democratic representative from South Carolina’s first district and Kentucky-native, is introducing a bill that will give Congress authority to review tariffs despite the Palmetto State’s manufacturing support for the President’s strategy.

As outlined by the bill, the Commerce Department, International Trade Commission (ITC) or U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) must issue a report on the proposed tariff’s justification and potential effects before it is imposed.

Currently, the President holds unilateral authority to impose any tariff under Sections 201, 301 and 232 of U.S. trade law.

Cunningham told the Upstate Business Journal “uncertainty over tariffs is doing real damage to our businesses and manufacturers, and in turn, their employees.”

“No President, Democrat or Republican, should be able to unilaterally impose tariffs without Congressional approval,” he said.  “No one wins in a trade war, and the legislation I introduced will allow Congress to play a more proactive role in trade policy.”

Reports out of CNN and FOX Business point to Bibles and model trains as unfortunate byproducts of the trade war, and on Monday Bloomberg reported that talks with China are starting up again as Beijing demands the U.S. remove all existing tariffs before a deal can be reached.

While industry and politicians collide on the topic, Republican Jeff Duncan reiterated the trade war with China has raged for decades, “we just haven’t been fighting back until now.”

“I am a supporter of free and fair trade and I believe tariffs are sometimes necessary to help ensure our trading partners, like China, play by the rules and don’t take advantage of our country,” he finished.

SC Manufacturer’s point of view 

“For way too long our policy makers on both sides have not championed American manufacturing,” said Mark McClure VP at International Plastics.

Over the last 40-plus years, “we have been losing through failed policy and trade agreements,” he continued. “While American consumers enjoyed cheap Chinese goods, American manufacturing jobs vanished.”

McClure said the Trump Administration’s tariffs would tell China “we are serious and not afraid to implement them long term if necessary.”

As policy makers meet to negotiate the trade deals with China, “rest assured other topics like IP theft, currency manipulation, cyber hacking and industrial espionage will also be addressed,” he said. “The President is doing the right thing by holding China accountable.”

Chris Urban, managing director at Aalberts material technology, expressed industry-wide excitement for the opportunity at fair competition and to “take back business we’ve lost in America.”

In 2018, BMW was the largest vehicle exporter in the U.S. by value, according to data from the U.S. Department of Commerce. China was the automaker’s biggest export market as their Spartanburg plant sent nearly a quarter-million X-series crossovers valued at over $8.4 billion.

“While I’m no fan of Tariffs”, Sen. Tim Scott warned, “China is attempting to steal the future.”

“The tariffs on China are a useful tactic we can wield in our economic arsenal to force them to the negotiating table,” he said. “We must do everything we can to preserve and protect American innovation and jobs.”

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