US steel importers aim to take suit against Trump national security tariffs to Supreme Court

28 February 2020 12:32

US steel importers plan to bring their legal bid against the Trump administration’s metal tariffs to the Supreme Court after a federal appeals court today rejected claims the national security authority used to justify the levies violates the Constitution.

The American Institute of International Steel, or AIIS, is aiming to file a petition with the nation’s highest court before it adjourns in June, Alan Morrison, one of the trade association’s attorneys, told MLex.

Today’s opinion from the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit maintained the Court of International Trade’s decision last year that ruled the Cold-War era national security authority — under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act — doesn't violate the Constitution; and a 1976 Supreme Court decision already ruled that the president has broad authority under Section 232.

“We agree, and we therefore affirm,” Judges Richard Taranto, Alvin Schall and Kara Stoll said.

For nearly two years, AIIS has been arguing that Congress — in designing Section 232 without restrictions for the president in 1962 — improperly delegated its legislative authority to the executive branch.

Decades later, President Donald Trump invoked Section 232 to imposed tariffs on most steel and aluminum imports — which rattled global supply chains and disrupted US trade relations with other governments, the group said.

The American Iron and Steel Institute, or AISI, however, praised the Federal Circuit decision. AISI — which comprises major manufacturers such as AK Steel and Nucor — had backed the federal government in the lawsuit

“This lawsuit by steel importers is a weak attempt to mask the fact that surging foreign imports have severely impacted the domestic steel industry and threaten our national and economic security,” said Thomas J. Gibson, president and CEO.

“The Court today affirmed that Congress acted within its constitutional authority when it authorized the president to take action to adjust imports that threaten to impair our national security,” Gibson said.

The dispute arises from the administration’s active use of Section 232, including the imposition of a 25 percent tariff on steel and 10 percent tariff on aluminum, in March 2018. The White House has also invoked the authority for proceedings that could unleash more trade restrictions on tariffs on foreign cars, titanium sponge and uranium.

AIIS first lodged a complaint in June 2018 at the CIT. The trade court, however, sided with the federal government because it was bound to the 1976 Supreme Court decision.

That led the group to file its first petition for a writ of certiorari in the Supreme Court in an attempt to expedite the appeals process. The court declined to review the case. AIIS then proceeded to go through the traditional route with the Federal Circuit, where oral arguments were immediately scheduled in January.

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