Additional tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on imported aluminum would be precluded under legislation introduced March 8 by Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. According to a press release from Flake’s office, the bill would prohibit the implementation of related changes to the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the U.S. set forth in two presidential proclamations.

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Flake said the steel and aluminum tariffs, which are slated to take effect March 23, will “do just what tariffs have always done” and lead to job losses and slow economic growth. Flake was also critical of the “poorly defined” exemption process the White House has outlined for specific countries or businesses, which “only serves to harm the economy further by creating uncertainty.”

For example, Flake said, this process would allow the president to decide to “lift tariffs or lessen the burden of tariffs” on a country that agrees to take “this or that” action on an unrelated matter but then “seek to re-impose or make the burden heavier” if the country later takes another, undesirable action. “That simply doesn't work if you're trying to achieve economic growth and if you're trying to convince countries to enter into trade partnerships with you, particularly when you're dealing with our allies,” Flake said.

Flake called for support for his bill from “those who have reservations about these tariffs” or “who have expressed admiration for free trade or supply-side economics.” He also sought backing from “those who are happy with the economic growth we have recently achieved,” warning that a trade war resulting from the impending tariffs could reverse economic gains he attributed to through regulatory and tax reform.

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