In a Feb. 4 ruling the Court of International Trade upheld then-President Trump’s imposition of Section 232 tariffs on imports of steel products. The CIT’s decision, and the World Trade Organization’s recent announcement that it would delay until later this year a ruling in a related case, could make it more difficult politically for President Biden to reduce or remove the tariffs following the conclusion of his administration’s review of the matter.
The CIT rejected each of the plaintiff’s arguments in this case, as follows.
- The Department of Commerce’s report finding that steel imports were a threat to national security is not reviewable as a final agency action under the Administrative Procedures Act because Section 232 gives the president discretion to take action other than what the DOC recommended. (Even if the report were reviewable, the CIT noted, such a finding would not allow the court to invalidate the subsequent presidential action.)
- The claim that the president failed to identify an impending threat to the domestic steel industry is not reviewable because Section 232 gives the president latitude in determining whether a threat exists and the president’s exercise of such discretion is generally not open to judicial scrutiny.
- The president’s determination to maintain the tariffs until the underlying actions “are expressly reduced, modified, or terminated” is sufficient to meet the statutory requirement to determine the duration of the tariffs and a specific end date was not required.
This decision follows two others regarding the Section 232 tariffs on steel: (1) a March 2019 ruling rejecting an argument that Section 232’s delegation to the president of Congress’ authority to impose tariffs and regulate foreign commerce was unconstitutional, and (2) a July 2020 ruling that the statute’s limits on the time within which the president may take action are “not a mere directory guideline but a restriction that requires strict adherence.”
For more information on strategies to mitigate the impact of the Section 232 tariffs, please contact Mark Segrist or Mark Tallo.
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