Donald Trump is worried about the United States’ standing in the world and the “unfair” trade practices that he’s decried so many times as hurting American industry — and he’s hoping to correct the record with a bill called FART.
The United States Fair and Reciprocal Tariff Act, or FART for short, is Trump’s brainchild and was cooked up by his staff at his personal request. The bill would allow Trump to abandon the World Trade Organization’s tariff rules, granting him new authority to unilaterally change tariff agreements with certain countries, according to a leaked copy of the bill published by Axios.
A source tells Axios the draft bill is “insane,” not just in name but in content, too.
The bill would allow the U.S. to abandon central WTO trade rules, namely the “most favored nation” principle that keeps countries from setting different tariff rates for different countries outside of free trade agreements and “bound tariff rates,” the tariff ceilings that each WTO member country has previously agreed to. In short, it would give Trump the authority to start a trade war without Congressional oversight, all while flouting the WTO’s rules.
The White House was quick to point out that the working version of the bill obtained by Axios is still very much in the works.
"It is no secret that POTUS has had frustrations with the unfair imbalance of tariffs that put the U.S. at a disadvantage,” Deputy Press Secretary Lindsay Walters said in a statement provided to Axios. “He has asked his team to develop ideas to remedy this situation and create incentives for countries to lower their tariffs.”
“The only way this would be news is if this were actual legislation that the administration was preparing to roll out, but it’s not,” she added.
The bill was drawn up at Trump's request, and he was reportedly briefed on it in May, but according to Axios, the text has yet to be reviewed by the most important of Trump’s economic advisers. It does, however, reportedly have one strong backer: Trump’s trade adviser Peter Navarro, who Axois reports believes the bill will gain support from Democrats.
Besides the obvious embarrassment that any lawmaker would feel supporting a bill called FART, members of Congress on both sides of the aisle seem more inclined to restrict Trump’s power on trade than expand it. Sen. Bob Corker, the Republican from Tennessee, tried to sneak a provision into the farm bill that would’ve required congressional approval of tariffs levied in the name of national security, and Sen. Michael Bennet, the Democrat from Colorado, recently introduced a bill to reverse Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum.
Already, at least one prominent Trump backer, Trump’s short-lived communications director Anthony Scaramucci, tweeted that proposed bill “stinks.”
Meanwhile, countries across the world are pushing back on Trump’s already aggressive stance on trade. Canada started taxing U.S. ketchup on Sunday, among other things, and the EU is threatening some $300 billion in new tariffs, according to the Financial Times. Global markets tumbled Monday in response to what looks like a looming trade war.
Cover image: U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump step off Marine One on the South Lawn upon arrival at the White House on July 1, 2018 in Washington, DC. Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images.