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Steel Import Review Delayed but Restrictions Still Possible

A Trump administration review of steel has been pushed back but is still underway and could yet lead to broad import restrictions, according to press sources. In April the U.S. Department of Commerce self-initiated an investigation under section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 to determine whether imports of foreign-made steel are harming U.S. national security. If the DOC’s determination is affirmative, and the president concurs, the president has the authority to adjust imports, including through the use of tariffs and quotas. The law gives the DOC up to 270 days (until mid-January 2018) to conclude this investigation but President Trump had directed the DOC to submit its report and recommendations by the end of June.

Press reports suggest that the DOC had largely finished its work by that deadline but that an announcement appears to no longer be imminent. Trump said recently that a decision would wait until other priorities such as healthcare, tax reform and possibly infrastructure improvements are “finished up,” which could be months if not longer. The delay has been attributed to disagreements within the administration on what, if any, measures to impose, particularly given opposition by downstream U.S. industries and concerns that national security-based import restrictions could spark retaliation by U.S. trading partners.

A Reuters article quoted an unnamed administration official as saying that the steel investigation is “still under the final stages of review.” The article cited other knowledgeable observers as speculating that the president will ultimately impose some type of restrictions, possibly by the end of the year.

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