Trump, Trade and 1977 International Emergency Economic Powers Act

International Emergency Economic Powers Act 1977

Below is a brief synopsis to a March 2019 Congressional Research Service 68 page report to answer by historical standards and to highlight the question to Economic Emergency and Presidential authority. Offered for educational purposes to synthesize factual context. Must stress, below derives not from original research.

The IEEPA contains a long and varied history since Woodrow Wilson from its WW 1 and 1916 /1917 derivation: Trading with the Enemy Act. The original purpose to Trading with the Enemy Act was an answer to Europe’s Executive Department regulation of economics and trade “with or without the support of respective legislatures.

Between 1916 -1917, Congress passed 22 laws granting President Wilson authority to seize control of United States private or foreign property for public use during the war. Private property was defined then as any property from Rail, Cars, Water, phones. Further laws granted Executive authority to Presidents over International Trade, Migration, investment, communication between enemies, FX, Gold and Silver, credit transfers.

Section 5 b under Trading with the Enemy Act was and lives today as crucial due to its grant of Presidents total Emergency Economic powers. The only difference today is 1970’s restrictions placed on 5b Emergencies over the decades to include Emergency timelines, cost, frequent reports, continued emergency declarations, nations, individuals and terrorist or enemy group targets.

Trading with the Enemy Act terminated in 1921 after WW 1 but revived by use of 5b under President Roosevelt in the 1930’s to include for all Western nations its new format: Presidential Emergency Powers during peacetime. Under 5b’s new format included during war and any national economic emergency declared by the president. Under any economic emergency, Roosevelt completely revived Wilson’s 5b powers to Trading with the Enemy Act.

Under 5b, Roosevelt declared a 4 day bank holiday to suspend all bank transactions to include regulation of foreign exchange, regulate bank credit transfers, seize private property, Gold, Silver and precious metals.

President Truman in the 1950’s began 5b Economic Emergencies to target nations: China and North Korea while the 1970’s began declared Economic Emergencies under newly passed Export Control laws as well as target Communist nations during the Cold War. One mainstay from Wilson to the 1977 International Emergency Economic Powers act of 1977 is declaration to the hoarding of Gold.

Related to Trump today is Lyndon Johnson’s 1968 Emergency declaration under 5b powers to limit Direct Foreign Investment by US companies to strengthen the Balance of Payment position of the United States.” Nixon then placed a 10% Tax on imports entering the United States at the same time the Gold Standard was lifted in favor of the FX free float.

By the 1970’s first review of Economic Emergencies and 5b, the United Stated declared 470 Emergencies without time limitations. Then began the revelation to declaration of Economic Emergencies to a dictator or a president who sought autocratic power due to the broad powers granted under Economic Emergencies without Congressional control.
Reforms began with passage of the National Emergencies Act of 1976 to eliminate past emergencies and 5b remained. A President must now inform Congress to Economic Emergencies and under a twice yearly review, Congress by vote may eliminate the Economic Emergency.

5b Provisons were not reformed in a true sense under the 1977 International Emergency Economic Powers Act except a President must inform Congress, submit reports, highlight exact Emergency or threat, provisions for foreign nations, individuals or groups blocked, frozen or seized assets. Economic Emergencies to Commerce was expanded under 5b since the Trading with the Enemy Act to include sanctions. A total of 54 Economic Emergencies were declared since 1977 and 32 remain ongoing today against an average duration of 10 years.

Domestically, Hurricanes are always declared Economic Emergencies, the 9/11 Terrorist attacks and Trump’s Immigration on the Southern Border Southern dilemma. The Iranian hostage crisis of 1979 remains the longest ongoing Economic Emergency.

Economic Emergencies under 5b expanded to include chemical and biological weapons, cyber attacks, religious persecution. Broad powers were expanded under 5b Transaction to include target individuals, groups, and provisions for law violations.

In Trade as past precedents to Trump’s China tariffs, Nicaragua and South Africa were restricted from Trade with the United States in the 1980’s, Trump targeted Venezuela’s Oil company Petro of Venezuela as well as many individuals related to trade.

Overall, as 5b Emergency Economic threats became apparent to national security, 5b provisions under the 1977 act expanded. Trump China Tariffs and Trade restriction contain every legality under 5b and the 1977 International Emergency Economic Powers Act.


Brian Twomey