Duffy seeks to give president more power in reciprocal trade negotiations

U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI) on Jan. 24 introduced the United States Reciprocal Trade Act to permit the president to take specific actions related to reciprocal trade agreements.

“Unfortunately, the current trade system allows other countries to put massive tariffs on our products without any repercussions,” Rep. Duffy said last week. “That’s why my legislation would give the president the tools necessary to pressure other nations to lower their tariffs and stop taking advantage of America.”

H.R. 764 would level the playing field on trade, said the congressman, and would give the president more flexibility in responding to foreign tariffs on U.S. products.

“American workers, farmers and manufactures are the hardest working and most productive people in the world. And if they’re given a level playing field, they can compete and win against anyone else on Earth,” said Rep. Duffy, ranking member of the U.S. House Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance.

H.R. 764 has 18 Republican cosponsors, including U.S. Reps. Mike Kelly (R-PA), Billy Long (R-MO) and Michael Burgess (R-TX).

According to the text of H.R. 764, the measure would express the sense of Congress that U.S. trading partners in many instances impose higher tariffs on U.S. goods than what the United States imposes on the same or similar goods imported from those same countries; and that U.S. trading partners in many cases levy nontariff barriers that “greatly undermine the value of negotiated tariff concessions.”

“The lack of reciprocity in tariff levels and disproportionate use of non-tariff barriers by United States trading partners facilitates foreign imports, discourages United States exports, and puts United States producers, farmers, and workers at a competitive disadvantage,” according to the text of the bill.

This lack of reciprocity “contributes to the large and growing United States trade deficit in goods, which is a drag on economic growth and undermines economic prosperity,” according to the bill.

“The goal of the U.S. Reciprocal Trade Act is not to raise America’s tariffs but rather to encourage the rest of the world to lower theirs,” Rep. Duffy explained. “The American people deserve free and fair trade, and the Reciprocal Trade Act will be an important step in achieving that goal.”

If enacted, H.R. 764 would give the president “a wide array of tools to open the markets of United States trading partners” and to encourage negotiations that would “liberalize trade in goods on a fair and reciprocal basis,” including the authority to adjust tariff rates to reciprocal levels, according to the bill.

Some of the actions that the president would be authorized to take under H.R. 764 include negotiating an agreement with a foreign country that would require the country to reduce the rate of duty or to lower or eliminate non-tariff barriers on a good, or the president would be able to impose a rate of duty on imports of the good that would be equal to the rate of duty imposed by the foreign country, among other possible actions.

H.R. 764 has been referred to the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee and to the U.S. House Rules Committee for consideration.