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US steel importers criticize 232 ruling

Jul 16, 2021 | 09:29 AM | New York | Mark Shenk

Tags  Section 232, AMSCI, steel imports, steel tariffs, steel industry

The American Metals Supply Chain Institute (AMSCI) objects to a ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit confirming that the US President can adjust Section 232 tariffs long after they were first implemented.

In a split decision on Tuesday July 13, the three-judge panel overturned a US Court of International Trade (CIT) ruling that put a time limit on presidential tariff authority under Section 232. The panel said that President Donald Trump was acting  legally when he doubled tariffs on Turkish steel several months after they were imposed in March 2018. 

“This is an astonishing and dangerous development,” AMSCI president Richard Chriss told Fastmarkets. 

“As Circuit Judge Jimmie Reyna forcefully argues in a blistering dissent, the majority opinion of a divided appeals court does an extraordinary thing: by holding that Section 232 does not temporally limit the President’s discretionary authority to act, it expands Congress’ delegation of power under the statute even further,” Chriss said.

“The court’s split decision, if not overturned on appeal, will have very adverse consequences for businesses in the metals supply chain, and certainly on jobs. Imagine a world in which the congressionally determined statutory deadlines have no real meaning, because actions to raise tariff rates taken long after those deadlines have passed are deemed to be part of a ‘plan of action,’ in the words of the majority opinion,” Chriss said. “That’s the world we would face. That would make rational business planning exceptionally difficult, if not impossible.”

AMSCI and its predecessor organization, the American Institute for International Steel, have led opposition to the Section 232 tariffs and quotas that were imposed by former President Trump. The organization argues that there is no national security justification for the imposition of Section 232, and that the tariffs have hurt more industries than they have helped in addition to causing inflation.

“The often-quoted national security threat is, quite frankly, baseless by the Department of Defense's own admission, particularly as it relates to our most important allies... This is one reason AMSCI actively supports the work of the bipartisan group of senators that have introduced the Trade Security Act, which would amend Section 232 by requiring the Department of Defense to justify the national security basis for new tariffs and increasing the congressional oversight of the process,” Chriss said.

“The tariffs have had unintended, adverse consequences,” he said. “Consider the 3,000 or so new jobs in the domestic steel sector that the tariffs have reportedly supported. According to the Federal Reserve, price hikes resulting from the tariffs led to the loss of 75,000 US manufacturing jobs and higher producer prices.”

US steel producers don’t share AMSCI’s view and cheered the court’s decision earlier in the week. Both the American Iron and Steel Institute and Steel Manufacturers Association praised the decision for allowing presidential flexibility in applying the tariffs that they contend have helped revive the domestic steel industry.

Fastmarkets’ daily steel hot-rolled coil index, fob mill US was calculated at $90.93 per hundredweight ($1,818.60 per ton) on July 15, down by 0.44% from $91.33 per cwt on July 14, which had been the highest level since Fastmarkets started tracking the market in 1960.


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