The U.S. Department of Commerce (USDOC) has recently conducted eight investigations related to to U.S. national security.
In particular, the investigations relate to U.S. imports of aluminum, steel, automobiles and auto parts, uranium, titanium sponge, grain oriented electrical steel, vanadium, and neodymium magnets.
First and foremost, Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 provides for investigations by the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) to determine the national security effects of imports of articles.
Section 232(b) of the Act requires the Secretary, upon petition of the head of any department or agency, upon application of an interested party, or on his own motion, to initiate an appropriate investigation to determine the national security effects of imports of the article that is the subject of the petition, application, or motion.
National security investigations during 2021 (chronological by date instituted)
The Secretary must then submit a report to the President within 270 days of the opening of the investigation.
The report must include the Secretary’s findings “with respect to the effect of the importation of such article in such quantities or under such circumstances on national security” and recommendations for action or inaction.
Also, the law states that if the Secretary finds that the imported article “is being imported into the United States in quantities or under circumstances that threaten to impair national security,” the Secretary must so inform the President in the report.
Within 90 days of receipt of such report from the Secretary, the President must determine whether he concurs with the Secretary’s finding and, if he concurs, must determine the nature and duration of the action to be taken to adjust imports of the article and its derivatives so that such imports do not threaten to impair national security.
During 2021, the USDOC initiated a new investigation under the national security provisions of section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. The President did not impose any new section 232 measures during 2021.
On May 17, 2019, the President announced that he concurred with the Secretary’s finding and directed the Trade Representative, in consultation with other officials, to pursue the negotiation of agreements to address the threat of impairment of national security due to imports of automobiles and automotive parts from the EU, Japan, and other trading partners.
In addition, the President further directed the Trade Representative to provide an update within 180 days and directed the Secretary to continue to monitor imports.
The President announced that if agreements were not reached within 180 days, he would determine whether and what further action would be necessary.
In July 2021, the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) released the report containing the Secretary’s findings at the conclusion of the investigation in 2020.
As described in the report, the Secretary determined that the displacement of domestic products by excessive imports is causing a weakening of the domestic domestic domestic economy that may harm national security.
The Secretary made three subsequent recommendations as possible options to eliminate the threat of impairing national security. No further action had been taken by the end of 2021.