Administration steel investigation may be a dud, or it may invite retaliation.
On April 20, President Donald Trump signed an executive order directing the expedited completion of an existing investigation initiated by the Secretary of Commerce with respect to steel imports, under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. The purpose of a Section 232 investigation is to determine the effect of imports on national security.
The president and the administration have a number of different avenues through which to investigate and take action against foreign imports. It is somewhat puzzling why the administration chose the Section 232 route in this case.
The only effect of the presidential memorandum in this instance is to hurry-up the investigation from its normal 270 days to 50 days, a circumstance which some observers regard as unrealistic. It’s worth noting, however, that the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry quickly posted a notice of a public hearing on the matter for May 24, 2017.
Section 232 is rarely used and has only been pursued twice since the US joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995: in an investigation of crude oil in 1999, and iron and steel in 2001. In both cases, the Commerce Department recommended that the president not take action and the president concurred. In the 2001 case, the Secretary of Commerce found that “iron ore and semi-finished steel are important to US national security” and that “imports of iron ore and semi-finished steel could threaten to impair US national security” but that there is “no probative evidence” that those imports actually impair US national security.
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