Bipartisan bill seeks to rein in president’s power to impose tariffs

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Tariffs may still have an effect on the costs of building pontoon boats.

Tariffs may still have an effect on the costs of building pontoon boats.

Bipartisan bills introduced in the House and the Senate on Wednesday that would curtail President Trump’s power to impose tariffs are being applauded by the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

During his State of the Union address on Tuesday, the president also called for Congress to pass the Reciprocal Trade Act, which would give him new powers to impose tariffs, though his bid for that additional authority is facing an uphill battle, according to Bloomberg News.

But a bipartisan group led by Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, on Wednesday introduced a bill that would limit the president’s ability to use the national security statute Trump employed last year to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum, prompting retaliation from other countries on goods, including U.S.-built boats.

"We are pleased that lawmakers are taking a more proactive role in addressing the ongoing trade war that has hit the recreational boating industry particularly hard,” said NMMA president Thom Dammrich in a statement.

The introduction of the Trade Security Act in both Chambers of Congress represents a “much-needed step in protecting free and fair trade that is vital for supporting the economic growth and job creation driven by our nation's boat manufacturers,” said Dammrich.

“The importance of trade to our industry cannot be overstated and we are hopeful this legislation will mitigate the potential for additional tit-for-tat tariffs that further harm our industry,” said Dammrich.

However, although the Trade Security Act would limit future tariffs under Section 232, it would leave current aluminum, steel and retaliatory tariffs in place, said Dammrich.

“Retaliatory tariffs have restricted recreational boat exports to critical markets, including Canada, Mexico, and the European Union – which account for 70 percent of the industry's annual exports,” said Dammrich. “Eliminating these tariffs is the first step to restoring our industry to its full strength.”

The association is encouraged by the initial effort from Congress to take a stronger role in addressing tariffs, but maintains that lawmakers and the administration need to collaborate on long-term solutions that include eliminating Section 232 tariffs on allies.

Other measures include removing retaliatory measures and ratifying the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement, often referred to as “the new Nafta.”

Those comprehensive solutions “will put an end to this counterproductive approach,” said Dammrich. “We look forward to working with elected officials on both sides of the aisle to bolster our industry's contributions to the economy for years to come."

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