About Sec. 232 Measures

Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 (Sec. 232) allows any federal government department, agency head, or “interested party” to request a Department of Commerce (Commerce) investigation to determine whether specific imports threaten to impair U.S. national security.

If Commerce determines in the affirmative, the President can determine the nature and duration of any action to be taken to adjust imports. The President may decide to impose tariffs or quotas to offset the adverse effect, without any limits on their duration, and may exclude specific products or countries at his/her discretion. (CRS 2020)

Section 232 Import Measures on Steel

For decades, global excess capacity and the resulting volume of steel being imported into the U.S. threatened the ability of American steel producers and workers to meet national security and critical infrastructure requirements.

In response to this global steel surplus, Commerce conducted an investigation under Sec. 232 in consultation with the Department of Defense and other relevant government agencies. In 2018, Commerce concluded that imports of steel products pose significant risks to U.S. national security and the industry’s ability to maintain operations and grow in areas essential to national defense, critical infrastructure, and the broader economy.

As a result, the U.S. imposed tariffs of 25% on imported steel products to adjust the level of imported steel so that America is able to meet its national security needs. Several countries reached agreements for alternatives to the tariff, including annual quotas. Commerce’s product exclusion process ensures that products that are not domestically available are not subject to the Sec. 232 tariffs and quotas.

The Section 232 Measures Are Working

The Sec. 232 tariffs and quotas continue to strengthen America’s national security. These measures are helping U.S. steelmakers increase output, hire more workers, make capital investments and supply the steel that supports our national security.

In promising to do a review of trade and tariff policies in effect on January 20, 2021to assess their impact on American industry and workers, the Biden Administration has pointed to data showing that the Sec. 232 measures are working and have said that they are a legitimate tool in upholding U.S. national security interests. Courts have also reinforced the legality of the actions taken.

Continuation of the existing Sec. 232 measures are essential to ensuring the ongoing viability of the American steel industry. Removing these measures before steel-producing nations meaningfully cut overcapacity and eliminate subsidies will only invite the same steel crisis that domestic steel producers have faced for decades.