ANNOUNCED AS TEMPORARYNo
On March 8, 2018 President Trump signed an order providing for the imposition of 10% tariffs on imports of aluminum from countries other than Canada and Mexico (pending renegotiation of NAFTA). The action was taken in the name of national security, although the president claimed in his remarks that the imports in question had been dumped and also alluded to the "Buy American" principle. The restrictions will take effect on March 23, 2018. He also stated that the order provided a means for the removal of barriers for countries that reached agreements with the United States, directing U.S. Trade Representative Lightizer to lead these negotiations. The president implied that the negotiations might deal not just with trade issues, but also defense spending. It is unclear which countries may respond to this announcement by entering into such negotiations, and which may respond by imposing retaliatory measures on imports from the United States.
The substance of the order is as follows:
On March 22, 2018 President Trump temporarily suspended additional tariffs on steel and aluminum products with respect to imports from the 28 member countries of the European Union as well as Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, and Korea. The tariffs took effect on March 23 with respect to shipments from all other countries.
On April 30, 2018 the president signed an executive order that the the "United States is continuing discussions with Canada, Mexico, and the EU," and that "unless I determine by further proclamation that the United States has reached a satisfactory alternative means to remove the threatened impairment to the national security by imports of aluminum articles from Canada, Mexico, and the member countries of the EU, the tariff ... shall be effective June 1, 2018, for these countries.
On May 31, 2018 the president signed an executive order modifying the application of these restrictions. The order provided that as of June 1, 2018, tariffs will no longer be suspended for steel or aluminum imports from exico, Canada, or the European Union. That same order stated that, "The United States has agreed on a range of measures with Argentina and Australia, including measures to reduce excess aluminum production and excess aluminum capacity, measures that will contribute to increased capacity utilization in the United States, and measures to prevent the transshipment of aluminum articles and avoid import surges."
This case began on an April 27, 2017 when President Trump signed a presidential memorandum for the secretary of commerce, directing the initiation of a case under the “national security” provision of U.S. trade law. Section 232(b)(1)(A) of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 provides broad authority for the imposition of restrictions on imports that are found to impair national security, typically in cases where those imports are alleged to suppress domestic production and/or lead to dependence on foreign sources for items that are considered vital to national security. The statute and its predecessors date to the 1950s, and has often been associated with energy security. It has rarely been invoked, and it reached its high-water mark in the 1970s and 1980s.
The law may be invoked if the secretary of commerce finds that aluminum is being imported into the United States in such quantities or under such circumstances as to threaten to impair the national security. Such a finding may lead him to recommend actions and steps that should be taken to adjust aluminum imports so that they will not threaten to impair the national security; the imposition of those measures would be a policy decision. The secretary has up to 270 days to conduct the investigation. The memorandum directed the secretary of commerce to —
(a) consider the domestic production of aluminum needed for projected national defense requirements; the capacity of domestic industries to meet such requirements; the existing and anticipated availabilities of the human resources, products, raw materials, and other supplies and services essential to the national defense; the requirements of growth of such industries and such supplies and services, including the investment, exploration, and development necessary to assure such growth; and the importation of goods in terms of their quantities, availabilities, character, and use as those affect such industries and the capacity of the United States to meet national security requirements;
(b) recognize the close relation of the Nation's economic welfare to our national security, and consider the effect of foreign competition in the aluminum industry on the economic welfare of domestic industries;
(c) consider any substantial unemployment, decrease in government revenues, loss of skills or investment, or other serious effects resulting from the displacement of any domestic products by excessive aluminum imports; and
(d) consider the status and likely effectiveness of efforts of the United States to negotiate a reduction in the levels of excess aluminum capacity worldwide.
On February 16, 2018 the U.S. Department of Commerce released the results of its investigations into the national-security impact of imports of steel mill products and from imports of wrought and unwrought aluminum. The department found that the quantities and circumstances of steel and aluminum imports “threaten to impair the national security,” as defined by Section 232. The president is required to make a decision on the steel recommendations by April 11, 2018, and on the aluminum recommendations by April 19, 2018. The aluminum report recommended to President Trump three alternative remedies that would cover both aluminum ingots and a wide variety of aluminum products.
Each of the three proposals is intended to raise production of aluminum from the present 48% average capacity to 80%, a level that would provide the industry with long-term viability. Each remedy applies measures to all countries and all steel products to prevent circumvention.
(In a related development, on August 10, 2018 President Trump wrote the following tweet: "I have just authorized a doubling of Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum with respect to Turkey as their currency, the Turkish Lira, slides rapidly downward against our very strong Dollar! Aluminum will now be 20% and Steel 50%. Our relations with Turkey are not good at this time!" While this action builds on the Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum, the underlying cause concerns a dispute between the U.S. and Turkish governments over the detention of an American citizen. GTA does not report on trade sanctions that are imposed for reasons of foreign policy.)
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