Escalating U.S. Tariffs: Timeline



Brock R. Williams and Keigh E. Hammond | Congressional Research Service

The trade practices of U.S. trading partners and the U.S. trade deficit are a focus of the Trump
Administration. Citing these and other concerns, the President has imposed tariff increases under three U.S. laws:

(1) Section 201 of the Trade Act of 1974 (Table 1) on U.S. imports of washing machines and solar products;

(2) Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 (Table 2) on U.S. imports of steel and aluminum, and potentially motor vehicles/parts and titanium sponge (the President decided not to impose tariffs on uranium imports, after an investigation); and

(3) Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 (Table 3) on U.S. imports from China. Congress delegated aspects of its constitutional authority to regulate foreign commerce to the President through these trade laws. These statutory authorities allow the President, based on agency investigations, to take various actions, including imposing import restrictions to address specific concerns (see text box). They have been used infrequently in the past two decades, in part due to the 1995 creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and its enforceable dispute settlement system. Prior to this Administration, U.S. import restrictions were last imposed under these trade laws in 1986 for Section 232, in 2001 for Section 301, and in 2002 for Section 201. The President also proposed increasing tariffs on imports from Mexico using authorities delegated by Congress under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), but subsequently suspended the proposed tariffs citing an agreement reached with Mexico. 

U.S. Laws Related To Trump Administration Trade Actions

Section 201 of the Trade Act of 1974—Allows the President to impose temporary duties and other trade measures if the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) determines a surge in imports is a substantial cause or threat of serious injury to a U.S. industry.

Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962—Allows the President to adjust imports if the Department of Commerce finds certain products are imported in such quantities or under such circumstances as to threaten to impair U.S. national security.

Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974—Allows the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to suspend trade agreement concessions or impose import restrictions if it determines a U.S. trading partner is violating trade agreement commitments or engaging in discriminatory or unreasonable practices that burden or restrict U.S. commerce.

International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) of 1977—Allows the President to regulate the importation of any property in which any foreign country or a national thereof has any interest if the President declares a national emergency to deal with an unusual and extraordinary threat, which has its source in whole or substantial part outside the United States, to the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States.




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