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President Donald Trump meets with members of Congress to discuss trade issues in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Washington, Feb. 13, 2018 (AP photo by Olivier Douliery).

Be Careful What You Wish For in a Trade Fight Between Trump and Congress

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

The U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power to regulate trade, and for more than a century it did so with gusto. Then, grasping for ways to escape the Great Depression and reverse the downward economic spiral that followed the protectionist Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, which passed in 1930, Congress delegated some of its trade power to the executive branch. In subsequent decades, Congress provided additional authorities allowing the president to control trade policy. Now, however, with concerns about President Donald Trump’s aggressive trade policy moves—imposing a range of tariffs on close allies and rivals alike, and threatening more—there are calls to shift some of that authority back to Congress.

As the United States celebrates the anniversary of its founding this week, it seems like a good time to review history and see how and why the governance of trade evolved the way it has in Washington. This history suggests strongly that, while some rebalancing is desirable, Congress should exercise great caution in reclaiming its power to regulate trade. ...

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