On April 20, 2017, President Trump issued a Presidential Memorandum for the Secretary of Commerce calling for an investigation into the national security implications of steel imports pursuant to Section 232 of Trade Expansion Act of 1962. This marked the first invocation of Section 232 since 2001, when the Department of Commerce (Commerce) investigated imports of semi-finished steel products and iron ore. The President called for a similar investigation into imports of aluminum a week later, on April 27.
Commerce held a public hearing in the steel investigation on May 24 and accepted written comments from the public through May 31. A video of the hearing, transcripts of witness testimony, and public versions of the comments that Commerce received are now publicly available through the Bureau of Industry and Security’s website.
A hearing in the aluminum investigation is scheduled for June 22, with any written comments due the following day. While the statute provides that Commerce must issue its findings and recommendations to the President within 270 days of initiation, President Trump has called informally for expedited findings, tweeting on May 27 that Commerce’s reports in both investigations are “to be released in June.”
The statute places few restrictions on the types of action that the President may take in response to Commerce’s findings. President Trump’s memoranda call for a broad interpretation of “national security,” including “the effect of foreign competition in the steel industry on the economic welfare of domestic industries.” These investigations could therefore result in restrictions on steel and aluminum imports, or other actions which could be used as leverage in future negotiations on issues related to steel and aluminum trade.