January 16, 2018

Commerce Department Sends President Section 232 Steel Findings, But Silent On What Action It’s Recommended

On Thursday, January 11, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross formally submitted to the White House and to President Donald Trump the results of its Section 232 investigation into the effect that steel mill product imports have on U.S. national security.

As Politico explained, “Neither the White House nor the Commerce Department confirmed that the report found a national security threat, but the fact that the investigation has now entered a presidential decision phase seems to suggest that it did.” American Metal Market (subscription required) noted the investigation “could be focused on certain nations and product categories,” “may target the energy-related pipe and tube category, where import volumes were notably high through much of 2017,” or “could prove to be little more than a bargaining chip for the U.S. to re-stake a posture in global commerce.”

As Connecting the Dots explained last week, the president now has 90 days to decide what course of action to take. A White House spokesperson would not speculate about when the president would make that decision. The Commerce Department said it will publish a summary of its investigation in the Federal Register after the president announces his decision. At that time, it also will make its report available to the public after removing any business confidential or classified material.

In public comments submitted to the Commerce Department last May, the Metals Service Center Institute (MSCI) advised federal officials to provide relief for producers up and down the supply chain and to consider consequences of any new trade policy, including:

  • The economic impact of global overcapacity on the entire domestic metals supply chain; transition times and implementation rules to any new policy;
  • Availability of domestic metals to meet U.S. national security needs, as well as general industrial and consumer demand; and
  • Trade flows under current free trade agreements, including NAFTA.

MSCI also requested the exclusion of Canada and Mexico from trade penalties resulting from the 232 investigation on steel.