Relevant legislation gives the occupant of the White House remarkable leeway should he choose to go protectionist. He can restrict imports if such imports “threaten to impair the national security”; he can impose tariffs “to deal with large and serious United States balance-of-payments deficits”; he can modify tariff rates when foreign governments engage in “unjustifiable” policies. Who determines whether such conditions apply? The executive himself.
The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.
He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.
The President can restrict imports if such imports threaten to impair the national security; he can impose tariffs to deal with large and serious United States balance-of-payments deficits; and he can modify tariff rates when foreign governments engage in unjustifiable policies, when and if, in each case, he is specifically authorized by the Congress to do so.