Understanding Trump’s National Security Tariffs: Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962



Women in International Trade | GW Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER) | District Export Council (DEC) of Virginia and DC

On June 3, WIIT co-hosted with the GW Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER) and the District Export Council (DEC) of Virginia and DC an event at George Washington University titled “Understanding Trump’s National Security Tariffs: Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962.”

Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 authorizes the president, after investigation by the Department of Commerce, to “adjust” imports determined to threaten the national security. In March 2018, President Trump imposed a 25% duty on steel and a 10% duty on aluminum. Most countries are covered by these tariffs but some have negotiated quotas with the United States. National security tariffs are now looming for automobiles and auto parts, and section 232 investigations are underway for uranium and titanium sponge. Two expert panels examine: – The arcane law and its limits as tested by litigation – Proposed legislation to restrict the president’s authority – The steel and aluminum tariffs and the product exclusion process, and how these have impacted U.S. manufacturers and global supply chains – The effect of such tariffs on the auto industry – The impact on the negotiation of free trade agreements


Marc Busch, Georgetown University

Halie Craig, US Senate

Alan Morrison, George Washington University

Vanessa Sciarra, National Foreign Trade Council

Moderator: Evelyn Suarez, The Suarez Firm


Catherine Boland, Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association

Mike Dankler, U.S. House of Representatives

Christine McDaniel, Mercatus Center, GMU

Paul Nathanson, Coalition of American Metal Manufacturers and Users

Moderator: John Saylor, Commonwealth Trading Partners, Inc.

The first of two expert panels discussed the legal foundation and limitations of the current administration’s use of Section 232. The talk featured comments from Marc Busch (Professor of International Business Diplomacy at Georgetown University), Halie Craig (Legislative Assistant for Senator Pat Toomey), Alan Morrison (Associate Dean for Public Interest & Public Service Law at GW), Vanessa Sciarra (VP of Legal Affairs and Trade & Investment Policy at the National Foreign Trade Council), and was moderated by Evelyn Suarez (Principal and Founder of the Suarez Firm). Vanessa Sciarra provided an overview of the history of the national security statute and origins of the Section 232 authority delegated to the executive branch by Congress. Panelists such as Halie Craig and Alan Morrison discussed the limitations of the law, and highlighted their respective legislative and judicial attempts to curb the president’s authority. Marc closed out the session with a summary of the cases current in front of the WTO that challenge the use of unilateral tariffs on national security grounds.
The second panel assessed the collateral damage and unintended consequences from imposing tariffs. The discussed included comments from Catherine Boland (VP, Legislative Affairs, Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association), Mike Dankler (Chief of Staff for Rep. Jackie Walorski), Christine McDaniel (Senior Research Fellow, Mercatus Center, George Mason University), Paul Nathanson (Senior Principal, Bracewell LLP), and was moderated by John Saylor (Director, International Trade Group, Commonwealth Trading Partners Inc.). The discussion dug into the details of the exclusion process, focusing on the high bar for success, as well as uncertainty created in the market, and the difficulties in planning for the future, particularly for industries for which modifying the supply chain is a more involved endeavor.

The event was organized by Evelyn Suarez (Former WIIT President), John Saylor (GW-CIBER Board of Advisors), Eva Hampl (Co-chair of Legislative Initiatives), and Jing Jing Zhang (Co-chair of Legislative Initiatives).

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