The Trump Administration has officially launched an investigation into whether steel imports should be restricted on national security grounds pursuant to Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962.

Section 232 is a rarely-used provision of U.S. trade law and was last invoked in 2001.  The statute provides that investigations may be initiated upon request of the head of any department or agency, upon application of an interested party, or may be self-initiated by the Secretary of Commerce.  Commerce’s self-initiation of an investigation pursuant to this seldom invoked authority is an important indication of the Administration’s willingness to aggressively use all trade remedies available to address unfair trade practices.

Secretary Ross will conduct an investigation to determine the effects of steel imports on the national security of the United States in accordance with the statute.  At the end of the investigation, the Secretary will submit a report to the President on the findings.  If the Secretary finds that steel is being imported in such quantities or under such circumstances as to threaten to impair the national security, the Secretary will also recommend actions that should be taken to adjust steel imports.

The exact nature of how the investigation will proceed is still being set up.  While the statute provides the Secretary of Commerce 270 days to conduct an investigation and submit a report to the President, President Trump and Secretary Ross have indicated that this investigation will be significantly expedited.