Tech, Free-Market Groups Want Bigger Role for Congress on Trade Issues

Congress should be flexing its muscles more in reviewing the trade requirements imposed by the White House, according to 13 tech and free-market groups that wrote to lawmakers on Thursday.

The organizations called on Congress to pass a measure, S. 177, introduced by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) that would give lawmakers the power to review trade actions sought by the White House, from trade agreements to tariffs.

“Trade policy has been unfairly maligned in recent years, but make no mistake: protectionism has an ugly history in the United States,” tech groups such as TechFreedom, the Niskanen Center and the R Street Institute wrote in their letter to Capitol Hill.

The 13 groups said Congress has ceded power in the trade realm that over time has given the executive branch a “virtual carte blanche to raise tariffs or otherwise restrict imports” that could trigger a “costly and unnecessary trade war.”

“Republicans can’t be anti-trade and pro-innovation at the same time,” Evan Swarztrauber, communications director at TechFreedom, said in a statement Thursday. “The politics of trade may have changed, but the facts haven’t. Trade is the tech economy, as 95 percent of global consumers live outside the U.S.”

Swarztrauber said that even though President Donald Trump has raised concerns about the trade deficit, the United States “continues to be a global leader in high-tech exports.” Restricting trade would “harm American workers,” Swarztrauber said.

Lee’s bill hasn’t gotten much traction since it was introduced on Jan. 20. No hearings or votes have been scheduled, according to the Utah Republican’s office. No senators have co-sponsored the measure.

Morning Consult