Canada: Trump Administration Investigates Impact Of Steel Imports On U.S. National Security

In our last international trade brief, we talked about U.S. President Donald Trump's "Buy American, Hire American" Executive Order. This week, in two articles, we discuss the softwood lumber dispute — which is now into the fifth round of ongoing trade policy differences between Canada and the United States — and President Trump's invocation of a rarely used U.S. trade law provision to investigate the effect of steel imports on national security.

On April 20, 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive memorandum directing the Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross, to investigate whether steel imports pose a threat to U.S. national security. The investigation has been initiated under Section 232(B) of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 [PDF] (the Act) — a rarely used provision — which allows for an examination of the effect of particular imports on national security. The purpose of this provision is to allow the U.S. government to assess whether there is excessive reliance on imports from unreliable sources, or if there is the potential for damage to a domestic industry such that it cannot satisfy U.S. defence needs.

1.Scope and timeline of Section 232 investigations

The Act confers broad presidential discretion to impose tariffs on imports that injure U.S. national security. Under Section 232(B) of the Act, if Commerce Secretary Ross determines that steel imports "threaten to impair" U.S. national security, the president can negotiate agreements to limit or restrict imports, or to "take such other actions as he deems necessary to adjust the imports of such article so that such imports will not threaten to impair the national security." Section 232(B) of the Act therefore allows action to be taken against "fairly traded" products that are imported to the U.S., and supplements the usual trade remedy provisions dealing with dumped or subsidized products that target "unfairly" traded imports.

The U.S. Department of Commerce (Commerce) is mandated by Section 232(B) of the Act to complete its investigation and issue a report within 270 days (i.e., nine months), during which it must consult the Department of Defense and may provide the public with an opportunity to comment. Notwithstanding the 270-day statutory timeline, President Trump has indicated that he is pressing for an expedited process that may conclude in as little as 30 to 50 days. Commerce Secretary Ross has stated that at least one public hearing will be held and comments will be called for. If the Commerce Secretary finds that imports threaten to impair national security, the president has 90 days during which to accept or reject the Commerce Secretary's findings and to decide on possible remedies (i.e. tariffs) or take non-trade-related measures. Commerce is thereafter required to take appropriate action no later than 15 days after the president determines a response is warranted.

2. Implication of the Section 232 investigation

The effect of the Section 232 investigation will likely be immediate and has the potential to severely strain trade relations with countries that export steel into the U.S., including Canada, China, Brazil, South Korea, Mexico, Germany and Turkey.1

The launch of the Section 232 investigation also signals the Trump administration's willingness to take an aggressive approach as part of the " Buy America" strategies, including by using procedures that are special or unusual. Section 232 has been rarely invoked to resolve trade import issues in the past; it was last used in 2001 for investigating iron ore and semi-finished steel. However, even then it was driven by a petition from U.S. companies, that, in normal course, along with their workers or industry association, are expected to request the government to initiate investigations. Commerce ultimately concluded in that investigation that the imports did not pose a threat to national security. The current investigation, on the other hand, has been self-initiated by Commerce which is unprecedented.

Although this investigation clearly is a protectionist step, it is far from a foregone conclusion that steel imports threaten to impair U.S. national security. Most of the imports originate from Canada, a close ally of the U.S, and typically do not involve technically advanced steels such as those used in defence applications.

Should the U.S. impose tariffs on imported steel, the risk of major protests from affected countries and potentially retaliatory measures on U.S. exports cannot be ruled out. In addition, affected countries may also challenge U.S. actions by requesting adjudication by a World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute panel.

3. Launching a Section 232 investigation into aluminum

The Trump administration seems intent on expanding the use of Section 232, launching another investigation under the provision on April 26, 2017, with respect to the impact of aluminum imports on national security. In a press conference, Commerce Secretary Ross justified the probe by stating that imported aluminum has left the U.S. with only one domestic producer capable of meeting the military's needs, which include fighter jets and next generation military vehicles. More details on this investigation will follow in next week's international trade brief.


1.See International Trade Administration, "Global Steel Trade Monitor" [PDF], Steel Imports Report – Imports by Top Source, December 2016, at p.3.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions