A leaked piece of Trump administration legislation would give President Trump new powers over trade and tariffs, according to Axios.
But some trade hawks inside and outside the administration question if any such legislation is necessary, given the broad powers granted to the president by existing law.
“We did Canadian lumber, solar panels, washing machines, $50 billion of China imports, steel, aluminum, and we’re looking at cars. Why would we need a fight on Capitol Hill over a new law for powers we already have?” a person familiar with the thinking inside the White House said.
The bill, which Axios said it retyped to protect its sources, is full of typographical errors and appears far from anything resembling a serious piece of legislation.
“It read like something thrown together by junior staff. Very junior staff,” said one experienced legislative author who works in a senior position on Capitol Hill.
The bill, titled the “United States Fair and Reciprocal Tariff Act,” would give the president the authority to raise tariffs in reaction to tariff and non-tariff barriers imposed by other countries. It would be largely redundant with current legislation that authorizes the president to impose trade restrictions on countries found to have unreasonable restrictions on trade.
According to Axios, however, the bill would be contrary to U.S. obligations under the World Trade Organization (WTO).
No White House source who spoke to Breitbart about the matter or anyone in the broader Trump administration said this was a serious piece of legislation. Administration trade hawks regard it as largely unneeded, given the broad powers granted to the president under current law.
“This is neither needed nor new. Three-oh-one gives us the ability to take any and all actions needed to respond to a discriminatory or unreasonable burden on U.S. commerce,” one person familiar with trade debates inside the White House told Breitbart News.
Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 grants the president broad authority to respond or retaliate to unfair trade practices.
White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters told Axios the bill did not represent a new legislative push by the administration.
“It is no secret that POTUS has had frustrations with the unfair imbalance of tariffs that put the U.S. at a disadvantage,” Walters said, according to Axios. “He has asked his team to develop ideas to remedy this situation and create incentives for countries to lower their tariffs. The current system gives the U.S. no leverage and other countries no incentive.”
Trump is frustrated with the WTO and what he sees as its anti-U.S. biases. Inside the administration, trade hawks view the WTO as a tool of China. But his criticism of the WTO has not yet amounted to any push within the administration to withdraw the U.S. from the organization.
Some inside the White House question the motives of whoever leaked the bill.
“This is coming from someone trying to scare the market into thinking the administration is planning some new trade assault,” one person briefed on the matter said.