The Department of Commerce has self-initiated an investigation under section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 to determine whether the present quantity and circumstances of uranium ore and product imports threaten to impair U.S. national security. A DOC press release explains that U.S. uranium production has dropped from 49 percent of U.S. requirements in 1987 to five percent today. In addition, three U.S. companies with mining operations have been idled in recent years and two major producers have laid off more than half their workforce over the last two years and are operating at roughly nine percent and 13 percent of capacity, respectively.
If the DOC (which must consult with the Department of Defense) concludes that uranium products are being imported in such quantities or under such circumstances as to threaten to impair U.S. national security, and the president concurs (a decision he would have up to 90 days after the DOC’s report to make), the president would have broad authority to adjust imports, including through the use of tariffs and quotas. The petitioner has requested relief in the form of (1) a quota that would reserve 25 percent of the U.S. market for U.S. uranium and (2) a Buy America policy for U.S. government agencies that utilize uranium. Any import adjustments, or any other non-trade-related actions the president may elect to take, would be imposed within 15 days of the president’s determination to act.
The DOC has up to 270 days to conclude a section 232 investigation and submit its report and recommendations to the president. A hearing date and request for public comments are expected to be published shortly in the Federal Register.
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