On May 6, 2020, Secretary Wilbur Ross announced that the Department of Commerce will initiate an investigation into whether the quantities or circumstances of imports of mobile cranes into the United States threaten to impair the national security. This investigation is the result of a petition filed by The Manitowoc Company, Inc. (Manitowoc) on December 19, 2019. This is the second Section 232 investigation initiated by Commerce in May 2020 and now the seventh overall investigation the Trump administration has initiated pursuant to Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 to determine the effect of imports on U.S. national security. As required by the statute, Commerce Secretary Ross will send a letter to the Secretary of Defense seeking input into the investigation and will also notify other relevant executive branch officials. The investigation will be conducted by the Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), and a more detailed Federal Register notice concerning the investigation and the submission of public comments will be published in the near future.

In its petition seeking the investigation, Manitowoc alleges that increased imports from Germany, Austria, and Japan and intellectual property (IP) infringement by foreign competition have harmed the U.S. mobile crane manufacturing industry. Manitowoc alleges that low-priced imports and IP infringement have caused the closure of one of its two production facilities in the United States and eliminated hundreds of manufacturing jobs. Specifically, the petition cites U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) import data showing that imports of mobile cranes increased 152% between 2014 and 2019 and a USITC Section 337 determination in April 2015 that a Chinese manufacturer misappropriated six trade secrets and infringed on a patent, resulting in the USITC banning the sale of Chinese crawler cranes (and their components) in the United States.

In response to the announcement that the Section 232 investigation would proceed, Manitowoc President and Chief Executive Officer Barry L. Pennypacker stated, “These imports jeopardize the domestic industry’s ability to supply cranes to the U.S. military and support critical infrastructure, thereby undermining the national security of the United States. We are confident this investigation will demonstrate the urgent need for [President Donald Trump] to provide immediate and meaningful relief for Manitowoc. This petition is about protecting our American workforce and preserving our longstanding commitments to the U.S. military.”

Further details on this Section 232 investigation and BIS’s procedures and timing will be provided in a future Trump and Trade post.