US Court of Appeals Overturns US CIT Ruling on Section 232
US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued a majority 2-1 opinion on 13 July 2021 reversing the ruling of the US Court of International Trade that former US President Mr Donald J Trump violated the provisions of Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 by increasing tariffs on steel imports from Turkey beyond those previously implemented under an earlier Presidential proclamation. The Federal Circuit, however, ruled that former President Trump did not depart from the finding of the Secretary of Commerce of a national security threat and did not violate the process and timing standards applicable to the Secretary’s finding of a national security threat. According to the decision, the statute empowers and directs the President to act to alleviate threats to national security from imports and the key issue is whether the statute permits the President to announce a continuing course of action within the statutory time period and then modify the initial implementing steps in line with the announced plan of action by adding impositions on imports to achieve the stated implementation objective. We conclude that the President does have such authority in the circumstances presented here.
The Federal Circuit decision made clear that the judges were not addressing other circumstances that would present other issues about presidential authority to adjust initially taken actions without securing a new report with a new threat finding from the Secretary. As a result, the Federal Circuit indicated, the immediate impact of this ruling should be limited to the facts and issues surrounding the implementation of additional duties on imports of Turkish steel.
After remand to the CIT, the plaintiffs group led by Transpacific Steel LLC have the option of challenging the decision by either seeking a review by the full Federal Circuit or appealing to the US Supreme Court.
Mr Trump initiated a 25% steel tariff and 10% aluminum tariff on metal imports from most countries under Section 232 in March 2018. The tariff was imposed following Commerce's investigation which found that surging steel and aluminum imports posed a national security threat. Serving as the plaintiffs, US based steel importer Transpacific Steel and a group of Turkish steel producers challenged Trump's action in the CIT in January 2019 and received a favorable ruling.