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U.S. veteran economist urges Congress to rein in president's authority on trade policy

(Xinhua)    15:06, June 20, 2019

WASHINGTON, June 19 (Xinhua) -- A U.S. veteran economist on Wednesday called on Congress to rein in President Donald Trump's authority on trade policy, saying the administration has abused congressional intent.

"The Trump administration has clearly abused congressional intent and arguably some of its legislative authorities in implementing current trade policies. Congress should act urgently to rein in the excesses of the Executive Branch," (whose power is vested in the president), said Fred Bergsten, senior fellow and director emeritus at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

Bergsten, who served as assistant secretary for international affairs of the U.S. Treasury Department, made the remarks at a hearing on the impact of recent trade policies on the U.S. economy, held by U.S. House Committee on Financial Services subcommittee on national security, international development and monetary policy.

In his testimony, Bergsten said the Trump administration's pattern of protectionism represents an "unprecedented and massive reversal of U.S. trade policy," and it's clearly violating congressional intent and arguably at least some of the laws that it is invoking.

There is "no justification" for invoking Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 to levy additional tariffs on steel and aluminum from U.S. allies on the ground of national security, said Bergsten, member of the Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and Negotiations under the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

Bergsten said there would be "even less justification" for invoking that provision to impose import restrictions on motor vehicles and auto parts.

An "even more egregious stretch," he said, is the president's threat to apply tariffs against all imports from Mexico unless that country takes far-reaching steps to restrict immigration into the United States across its border.

Bergsten noted that the legal justification, premised on a declaration of national emergency under Section 203 of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act of 1977, is a highly dubious proposition in this case.

In addition, President Trump has threatened to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement, including as a tactic to force congressional approval for his renegotiated United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, he said, noting that it's "unclear" whether the president has legal authority to do so without congressional approval.

Bergsten warned that all of the proposed tariffs by the Trump administration, if fully implemented, would essentially apply a tax of 25 percent to over 1 trillion U.S. dollars of U.S. imports, "without congressional approval." That would amount to a tax increase of more than 250 billion dollars on the American public, which ultimately pay most if not all the cost of the tariffs.

The uncertainty surrounding all these actions and threats dampens confidence in the economic outlook, and will deter investment, said the veteran economist, adding that these effects together could take a full percentage point or more off U.S. growth and even tilt the country into recession.

"The uncertainty also has a profound impact around the world on the credibility of the United States as a potential negotiating partner and as a faithful proponent of the rule of law," he said.

Bergsten urged Congress to clarify and assert its constitutional responsibility to determine U.S. trade policy in order to rein in abuses of delegated powers to the president and to preserve needed presidential negotiating authority for this and future U.S. presidents.

Congress should, he continued, require the president to seek its approval, or at least consult with it, regarding any proposed new tariffs on the basis of an analysis of the potential gains of the initiative, and its costs, in both economic and foreign policy terms.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Xian Jiangnan, Bianji)

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