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Sen. Jeff Flake introduces legislation to nullify Trump’s plan to raise tariffs

PHOENIX — U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake introduced legislation Monday that would nullify President Donald Trump’s plan to raise tariffs on steel and aluminum imported into the United States.

In an impassioned speech on the Senate floor, Flake upheld his promise to immediately nullify “this very unfortunate exercise in protectionism” which he first promised after the so-called “ill-conceived” tariffs were first announced last week.

“If implemented, these tariffs will do what tariffs have always done: Lead to job losses and will stymie economic growth,” Flake argued.

“What’s worse [is] that the president’s attempt at flexibility in the form of poorly defined exemptions only serves to harm the economy further by creating uncertainty. Tariffs are bad enough on their own. Tariffs married with uncertainty are even worse.”

Flake continued, claiming Trump would lessen or strengthen tariffs on certain countries if their leaders would do something that the president agrees or disagrees with.

“That simply doesn’t work if you’re trying to achieve economic growth and convince countries to enter into trade partnerships with you, particularly when you’re dealing with our allies. That’s no way to treat your allies,” Flake said.

“It’s often easier to point to a shuttered factory and blame trade or immigration or some other convenient scapegoat, other than what is usually the case — it’s modernization or mechanization or something that has meant that we have increased productivity, or simply the best allocation of capital in order to facilitate trade.”

The junior senator from Arizona said the United States needs to “aggressively negotiate” both bilateral and multilateral trade deals “in order to catch up.

“If we fail to do this and we continue to withdraw from the global marketplace, we’re going to be left far behind,” Flake said, pointing to the Trans-Pacific Partnership as an example.

Flake said the United States represents 20 percent of the world’s economic output and just 5 percent of the world’s population.

“If we don’t trade, we don’t grow. You can be pro-growth, you can be pro-tariff, but you can’t be both.”

Flake closed his speech by calling on those who have “reservations about these tariffs” and those who have “expressed admiration for free trade or supply-side economics” to support his bill.

“We in Congress cannot be complicit as this administration courts economic disaster. I urge my colleagues to join me in exercising our constitutional oversight to invalidate these irresponsible tariffs.”

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