Multiple sources have revealed that the Trump transition team is floating the idea of an early executive action imposing tariffs on foreign imports.
CNN reported that the Trump transition team did not immediately respond to their request for comment on the issue, but the idea goes hand-in-hand with Trump’s numerous campaign promises to put America first.
One of Trump’s key platforms throughout the campaign was to put an end to free trade, with the President-elect even going so far as promising to rip up the North American Free Trade Agreement that the United States currently has with Mexico and Canada. He also frequently came down on some of the country’s international trading partners like China and Japan, asserting that current U.S. trade practices put American workers at a disadvantage.
Sources told CNN that Reince Preibus has stated to D.C. insiders that the idea of a 5% tariff on imports is being debated internally. The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Priebus was explicitly warned that the move could mark the beginning of new trade wars and hurt economic growth.
One of the sources explained he was surprised the transition team is still considering the idea after the negative reaction in the business community and the strong opposition from GOP leadership. At least one top-ranking business organization already has a list of prepared talking points against the proposed tariffs.
“This $100 billion tax on American consumers and industry would impose heavy costs on the US economy, particularly for the manufacturing sector and American workers, with highly negative political repercussions,” the statement reads. “Rather than using a trade policy sledgehammer that would inflict serious collateral damage, the Trump administration should use the scalpel of US trade remedy law to achieve its goals.”
Because the current GOP leadership would likely strike down any proposed legislative efforts to impose tariffs, the sources say Trump is strongly considering the move by executive order. Current trade laws allow presidents to impose tariffs if he or she determines that the United States is subjected to unfair trade practices, is at an economic disadvantage, or if the country is at risk of a national security threat because of those trade practices.