Priorities for Commerce Secretary Nominee Raimondo: Tariffs, TPA, Trade Agreements

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President-Elect Biden will nominate Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo to be the next Commerce Secretary. She will soon be in a position to undo much of the damage the Trump administration’s trade policies have done to America’s economy and foreign policy interests. 

She should work with Congress and President-Elect Biden to repeal all of the Trump tariffs, and to repeal Section 232 of the 1962 Trade Expansion Act and Sections 201 and 301 of the 1974 Trade Act. No future president should be able to abuse executive power the way Trump has, especially as the country goes through a difficult recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.

The Biden administration will likely negotiate important trade agreements with the United Kingdom and European Union over the next few years. Raimondo will likely play a prominent role in the negotiations. Once in office, Raimondo will need to work with Congress to renew the president’s Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), which expires in July. This would greatly speed up negotiations and help remove harmful trade barriers during a difficult economic recovery that could use the boost.

It is also important that the upcoming trade agreements stick to trade to the extent possible. There has been a trend of trade agreements including trade-unrelated provisions such as regulatory, environment, and labor policies. These are open invitations to cronyism and rent-seeking. The added complexity means more things can go wrong during negotiations, and could scuttle worthwhile agreements.

President Trump’s United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which was laden with trade-unrelated provisions and political giveaways, should not set a precedent for upcoming agreements. Raimondo has a wonderful reform opportunity ahead of her that few commerce Secretaries have enjoyed. She should take full advantage of that opportunity.

Several trade reform idea policies are in Iain Murray’s and my paper “Traders of the Lost Ark,” and in CEI’s forthcoming Agenda for Congress.