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  June 8th, 2018 | Written by

Senators Propose Congressional Oversight Over Sections 232 Tariffs

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  • US recreational boating industry praises efforts to limit presidential power over Section 232 tariffs.
  • Decision to end steel and aluminum tariff exemptions for Canada, Mexico, and EU has sparked retaliation.
  • Retaliatory tariffs will likely harm US manufacturers and workers.

Ten United States senators led by Senator Bob Corker (R-Tennessee), have introduced bipartisan legislation to require congressional oversight over all proposed trade actions in the name of national security under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962.

The Department of Commerce’s decision to end Section 232 steel and aluminum tariff exemptions for Canada, Mexico, and the European Union have sparked retaliatory tariffs, which will likely harm US manufacturers and workers. Canada, Mexico, and the EU have already defined the products that will be the targets of retaliatory tariffs.

“Something’s got to give,” said Thom Dammrich, President of the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), “and relief on 232 would at least provide some breathing room for the recreational boating industry. And we are desperate for relief.”

US-made recreational boats are being targeted across the board on Section 232 and Section 301 steel and aluminum tariffs, in addition to countervailing and anti-dumping duties having been levied by the Commerce Department on aluminum sheet from China. Aluminum is a critical material used extensively in making boats and boat trailers.

“Boats of all types are being targeted in 232 retaliatory efforts from Canada, Mexico and the EU—our industry’s three largest trading partners representing 69 percent of US recreational boat and marine engine exports,” Dammrich added. “As a result, American-made boats have instantly become unmarketable outside of our own country, decimating our members’ export business. Boat dealers in Canada are already canceling orders and at the start of the busy summer selling season.” The retaliatory tariffs on marine products include 10 percent for Canada, 15 percent for Mexico, and 25 percent for the EU.

The Commerce Department’s decision to implement a countervailing duty and a proposed anti-dumping tariff on common alloy aluminum sheet would also increase the cost of a primary material used to manufacture more than 117,000 new boats annually. Commerce has already assessed countervailing duties on common alloy aluminum sheet from China that range from 31 percent to 113 percent. Also, Commerce is asking for additional anti-dumping duties of nearly 60 percent on top of the countervailing duties.

This massive tariff will be compounded by the Administration’s 10 percent tariff on all aluminum imports, (Section 232), as well as its newly proposed 25 percent tariff on a list of approximately 300 products from China (Section 301) used by the marine industry.

As history has shown, each of these tariffs threaten to increase the cost of manufacturing in the US, which will in turn result in lower domestic production, higher prices for US consumers, and fewer jobs for American workers.

While Dammrich’s position is understandable, it is unlikely that President Donald Trump will sign legislation which would limit his authority to impose tariffs and it is unlikely the legislation will garner a veto-proof majority. But a strong showing in the houses of Congress would convey a message to the president and the public.