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After a couple of self-imposed deadlines blown by and a lot of waiting, the next step in the Section 232 process has finally arrived.
Thursday evening the Department of Commerce announced Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross had completed his Setion 232 steel report and sent it on to President Donald Trump. Under the statutory guidelines of Section 232 (derived from the Trade Expansion Act of 1962), Trump has 90 days to respond to the recommendations and act (or not act).
As a result of the investigation, the president could call for tariffs, quotas, or a hybrid tariff-quota solution in an effort to help domestic steelmakers dealing with rising imports.
The department’s announcement did not indicate what the contents of the report were. White House Deputy Press Secretary Lindsay Walters said the president would announce his decision “at the appropriate time,” CNBC reported.
The Section 232 probes into steel and aluminum imports were launched last April. The purpose of the investigation is to determine whether or not the imports pose a threat to the country’s national security. The last Section 232 investigation came in 2001, when it was that determined that imports of iron ore and semi-finished steel did not pose a threat to national security.
Unsurprisingly, reactions rolled in Thursday evening from the metals industry.
“The steel industry welcomes the news that the Secretary of Commerce has formally submitted his report to the president in the Section 232 investigation into the impact of steel imports on the national security,” said Thomas J. Gibson, president and CEO of the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI), in a release. “We are confident that we have made the case that the repeated surges in steel imports in recent years threaten to impair our national security and we look forward to the president’s decision on the appropriate actions to address this critical situation.”
Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM), expressed hope that Trump would not need 90 days to bring the investigation to its conclusion.
“Final resolution of the Section 232 case doesn’t need to take 90 days; we’ve seen more than six months of delays already,” Paul said in a release. “Let’s get this done by the end of January.”
A rise in imports has been a consistent talking for Trump, with China in particular coming in for much criticism from the president and the domestic industry.
According to a recent AISI report, U.S. steel imports rose by 15.5% in 2017. The estimated finished steel import market share in 2017 checked in at 27% (22% for December 2017 alone).