On May 24, 2017, the Department of Commerce held a public hearing as part of its investigation under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 into the impact of steel imports on national security (see our previous client update for more information). In opening remarks, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross stated that the purpose of the investigation is to “determine if the steel being imported into this country impairs our national economic and military security” and that the key question is, “Does the problem rise to the level of crisis sufficient to warrant action beyond existing countervailing duty and antidumping cases?” Ross said the investigation will further seek to recommend what action(s) the president should take in response if the investigation concludes that steel imports are threatening to impair U.S. national security: “Should it cover all steel from everywhere? What do we do in terms of the 20+ percent of steel imports from our NAFTA partners? Should all products be covered? Is some sort of tariff rate quota appropriate? Or a more broadly based tariff? Are there products or countries that should be excluded? Is there some more innovative solution? If we go the tariff route, should it be broadly applied or a tariff schedule for groups of products?”

Under the Section 232 law, if the Commerce secretary determines that imports threaten to impair U.S. national security, the president will then have 90 days to decide whether to support that determination and to take any necessary action to adjust imports or take other non-trade-related actions to protect national security. While this investigation was only initiated in April 2017 and the Department of Commerce has 270 days to complete the investigation (i.e., by mid-January 2018), Ross indicated that he hopes to submit a report to Trump by the end of June.

The panel hearing the testimony yesterday consisted of officials from the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), the International Trade Administration, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Department of Defense and the Defense Logistics Agency. Approximately 37 individuals and company officials testified at the hearing, including Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), Chinese and Russian government officials, U.S. steel industry representatives, the president of the United Steelworkers union, and representatives from various U.S. companies that rely heavily on steel in the manufacturing of their products. While not yet available, the hearing transcript as well as submitted written hearing statements and other public comments will be posted on the BIS Electronic FOIA web page. Written comments will be accepted until May 31, 2017 and should be submitted to Brad Botwin, Director, Industrial Studies, Office of Technology Evaluation, Bureau of Industry and Security, U.S. Department of Commerce, 1401 Constitution Avenue NW, Room 1093, Washington, D.C. 20230 or by email to Steel232@bis.doc.gov. For those who wish to view the nearly four-hour hearing, it is available on YouTube.