Governments have many tools that they use to protect a nation’s security. In the United States, one can think of the traditional military action, diplomacy, export controls, sanctions, immigration controls, and border controls as among the tools that can be used to protect the homeland from various types of threats.
U.S. trade law has included Section 232 provisions for at least sixty-four years that are designed to limit trade liberalization where such liberalization could cause or has caused harm to our national security, including our national economic security. While the law – specifically Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, as amended – was seldom used for most of its existence, the Trump Administration has taken a more aggressive approach to using the law. Steel and aluminum were the first U.S. industries examined and the Secretary of Commerce found threats to our national security in both investigations and the President through Executive Orders has imposed duties of 25% on steel mill products and 10% on aluminum products. The duties have applied generally to imports from all countries, absent a bilateral agreement with the US for some other treatment of these goods from a particular country. Many trading partners, taking a much narrower view of national security, have retaliated against the U.S. with tariffs of their own. Countries have also filed cases at the WTO challenging whether the US action is a violation of WTO obligations.
Not surprisingly, what type of actions the Trump Administration has taken on steel and aluminum or may be considering in other ongoing investigations on autos and on uranium is of broad interest to businesses and workers in the U.S. and around the world, to governments and to U.S. legislators. At the XIV Symposium on International Trade hosted on October 24th by the ABCI Institute and the American University Washington College of Law, one of the panels considered the topic of Section 232 and repercussions. Terence Stewart was one of the panelists on the 232 panel. The paper and powerpoint by Mr. Stewart and Shahrzad Noorbaloochi that review the origins, history and use of Section 232 were provided to attendees and can be found here and here.The Repercussions of Section 232 Tariffs – Paper – Final
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