Trade The History of Section 232 Tariffs

Section 232 falls under the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 and is in place to determine if certain imports threaten the national security of the United States. If they do, Section 232 allows for tariffs or other fees to be imposed, adjusting trade flows for these goods and services. Before tariffs can be enacted, however, an investigation must take place under the authority of the Secretary of Commerce. Upon reviewing the report, the President has the authority to take action to modify or adjust the specified imports through tariffs or quotas. 

On March 8, 2018, President Trump announced Section 232 tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, following a review by the Commerce Department that concluded imports of both metals posed a national security risk. As a result, the President imposed a 25% tariff on steel imports and a 10% tariff on aluminum imports. While the initial sanction excluded Canada, Mexico, and the European Union, that lapsed on June 1st, and the tariffs now include these previously exempt countries. 

In addition, the President launched a new investigation on May 23rd to determine if imports of automobiles, SUVs, vans, light trucks, and automotive parts into the United States are also a threat to national security. Auto imports are not a national security threat and using this as an argument to justify the tariffs undermines U.S. credibility on the global stage. Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum have already resulted in demonstrable harm to U.S. businesses and consumers through higher prices and retaliation from trading partners. Imposing Section 232 on auto parts would further exacerbate this harm. 

Business Roundtable Statement on Commerce Department’s Recommendation to Use Section 232

View the Statement

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