Retiring Senator Jeff Flake took yet another swipe at resisting President Donald Trump on Thursday with the announcement that he would seek to “nullify” the tariffs that Trump signed into being on Thursday.
Trump ordered tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports and ten percent on aluminum imports as a measure to save U.S. production of the metals. Trump made the move under section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 after extensive Department of Commerce research into the issue. The tariffs are being imposed on the basis of economic and national security.
Flake was swift to declare his active resistance to the tariffs:
These so-called ‘flexible tariffs’ are a marriage of two lethal poisons to economic growth – protectionism and uncertainty. Trade wars are not won, they are only lost. Congress cannot be complicit as the administration courts economic disaster. I will immediately draft and introduce legislation to nullify these tariffs, and I urge my colleagues to pass it before this exercise in protectionism inflicts any more damage on the economy.
Trump spoke of imposing tariffs during his 2016 presidential campaign.
During a June 2016 Pittsburgh campaign speech, Trump called out China specifically over “theft of American trade secrets” and vowed to remedy trade disputes with tariffs. He specifically cited section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, which he used to impose the tariffs on Thursday.
The United States has lost six aluminum smelters since 2013, leaving just five, according to one senior administration official. Of those five, only two are operating at full capacity, and just one produces military grade high purity aluminum. That official stated that if the one military grade producing smelter were to shut down, the U.S. would be forced to buy this material from China or the Middle East. The official called it a significant vulnerability for the U.S. The steel industry has lost an estimated 50,000 jobs since 2000, according to the official.
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