Photo: AFP
The world trade system faces threats from many directions, economists say. Photo: AFP

While the US media focus on bipartisan backlash in Washington to President Donald Trump’s comments in Helsinki, a battle to define America’s trade policy rages on.

Republican Senator Orrin Hatch warned the White House on Tuesday that Congress would act to rein in Trump if he moves forward on tariffs.

“If the administration continues forward with its misguided and reckless reliance on tariffs, I will work to advance trade legislation to curtail presidential trade authority,” Hatch, who is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said in remarks on the US Senate floor.

“I am discussing legislative options with colleagues both on and off the Finance Committee and I will continue to do so,” Hatch added, as reported by Inside Trade. “However, I would much rather work with the administration to advance a trade agenda that serves the interests of the American people and job creators.”

The Senate last week overwhelmingly approved a motion that symbolically reaffirmed the role of Congress in crafting trade policy, which has been largely delegated to the executive branch through legislation.

Hatch’s comments came after Vice-President Mike Pence warned China on Monday that the US would not relent in a tit-for-tat tariff battle.

“If China refuses to level the playing field and continues to retaliate against American manufacturers and American agriculture, their leaders should know: America will not back down, our resolve will never break, and we will keep taking strong action to protect American workers until China changes course,” Pence was quoted as saying at the Commerce Department.

His remarks came on the same day that US comments submitted to the World Trade Organization on China’s “trade-disruptive economic model” were released.

The document, which enumerated various practices that the Trump administration has cited as a basis for imposing tariffs on Chinese products, argues that Chinese economic reforms run contrary to the basic principles guiding the WTO.

“For China, economic reform means perfecting the government’s and the [Communist] Party’s management of the economy and strengthening the state sector, particularly state-owned enterprises. As long as China remains on this path, the implications for [the WTO] are decidedly negative.”

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