The Congressional Research Service (CRS) of the US Library of Congress has released a report that explains the statutory basis for US trade sanctions on foreign countries that violate US trade agreements or unjustifiably burden US commerce.
The CRS report, updated 16 February 2021, is entitled "Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974". The CRS report is designated IF11346 (Version 10).
Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 (19 USC section 2411) grants the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) a range of responsibilities and authorities to investigate and take action to enforce US rights under trade agreements and respond to certain foreign trade practices.
According to the CRS report, there have been 130 cases under section 301 since the law's enactment in 1974. The cases have primarily targeted the European Union (EU), concerning mostly agricultural trade. The EU is followed by Canada, Japan and South Korea. During the Trump Administration, the USTR initiated six new investigations, two of which have resulted in the imposition of tariffs on US imports from China and the EU.
The CRS report states that Congress could consider:
- amending section 301 to require greater consultation or approval before a president takes new trade actions; and
- requesting an economic impact study of how such actions may affect the US economy, global supply chains and the multilateral trade system.
Note: The CRS is an agency within the US Library of Congress and serves the US Congress throughout the legislative process by providing legislative research and analysis for an informed national legislature.