I have a request. If you know of any good sources or think you can explain it yourself, please point me to some information on how we might follow President Trump’s desire and impose a 35% import tax against select companies that have moved manufacturing jobs overseas or to Mexico.

Obviously, in the case of Mexico, NAFTA precludes us from doing that, so it would have to be violated or ignored or somehow repealed or modified. But I’m trying to figure out how you would identify products (some of which are only partly assembled in foreign countries or are assembled in several foreign plants), how the shipping would be inspected or the law would otherwise be enforced, and how this could stand up in court.

I think border enforcement would be impossible, so it would have to based on voluntary compliance and enforced through some agency (the International Trade Commission?), perhaps a new one dedicated to just this purpose.

I’m not even concerned about the merits or reciprocal retaliation. Let’s just stipulate that Trump wants to accept those tradeoffs and focus on whether he (or Congress) could actually construct a law that would do what he says he wants to do without it either being struck down in the Courts or constantly bound up in the Courts or it being nothing much more than Swiss Cheese.

One thing I’m fairly sure about is that companies that want to relocate some manufacturing will be less transparent about what they’re doing and be certain to muddy the waters. For some big ticket items like fully assembled cars, the scheme might be workable, but I’m baffled when I try to envision how this would work in practice.

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