Axios has obtained a leaked draft of a Trump administration bill — ordered by the president himself — that would declare America’s abandonment of fundamental World Trade Organization rules.
Why it matters: The draft legislation is stunning. The bill essentially provides Trump a license to raise U.S. tariffs at will, without congressional consent and international rules be damned.
The details: The bill, titled the "United States Fair and Reciprocal Tariff Act," would give Trump unilateral power to ignore the two most basic principles of the WTO and negotiate one-on-one with any country:
[USTR] Spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said, "It is no secret that POTUS has had frustrations with the unfair imbalance of tariffs that put the U.S. at a disadvantage. 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."
I'm not taking this too seriously, and I don't mean to worry anyone by mentioning it here. But I did want to note, for the benefit of the trade folks in the Trump administration, that a good way to lower the tariffs faced by U.S. exporters is to negotiate trade agreements with other countries. This is what the U.S. did with NAFTA, and through NAFTA Mexican tariffs on U.S. imports were lowered to zero. So there is, in fact, a way to lower tariffs, if the Trump administration would like to do this.
ADDED: I also wanted to note that the Trump administration needs to decide what it considers most important in trade negotiations. If lowering foreign tariffs is its priority, I have no doubt it can do that. On the other hand, if it wants stronger intellectual property protection or labor rights, it can push for those instead of for lowering tariffs all the way. But it can't get everything it wants on all three, unless of course it wants to offer up something in exchange such as lowering U.S. agriculture subsidies, which I suspect it does not.