On March 8, 2018, President Donald Trump signed an order that enacts tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from all overseas countries, while exempting Canada and Mexico from such tariffs for now. The proclamations signed by the President will institute a tariff of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum imports. The tariffs are expected to become effective March 23, 2018.
The Trump administration’s efforts to levy tariffs on steel and aluminum imports came after a nine month investigation under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, led by the Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross (see March 5, 2018 edition of the WER). The investigations were initiated in April 2017 and designed to determine whether such imports “threaten or impair the national security.” When the Section 232 reports were finalized on March 1, 2018, the Commerce Department determined that import competition harms the domestic production of aluminum and steel, and tariffs would strengthen the economic footing of steel and aluminum corporations.
In the orders, the President qualified the exemption to Canada and Mexico based on a successful outcome in North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations, saying, “I have determined that the necessary and appropriate means to address the threat to the national security posed by imports of aluminum [and steel] articles from Canada and Mexico is to continue ongoing discussions with these countries and to exempt aluminum [and steel] articles imports from these countries from the tariff, at least at this time.” Of note, other exemptions to the tariff orders may be granted, as the President stated in the orders, “Should the United States and any such country arrive at a satisfactory alternative means to address the threat to the national security such that I determine that imports from that country no longer threaten to impair the national security, I may remove or modify the restriction” on steel and aluminum imports, meaning that the President may remove or make adjustments to the tariff restrictions on those items from those countries.