U.S. trade court: Presidential proclamation on tariffs on Turkish steel violated statute; refunds allowed

Presidential proclamation on tariffs on Turkish steel

The U.S. Court of International Trade held that a 2018 proclamation issued by the U.S. president violated statutory and constitutional guarantees. The trade court found that there must be strict adherence to statutory timelines when setting Section 232 tariffs, and the tariffs cannot be subsequently modified or adjusted beyond the legal deadlines without conducting another formal investigation.

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The trade court concluded that the president acted outside of the deadlines on raising customs tariffs on Turkish steel from 25% to 50% in August 2018, and granted two importers refunds of duties collected as a result of the tariff increase.

The case is: Transpacific Steel, LLC v. United States, Slip op. 20-98 (CIT July 14, 2020). Read the court’s decision [PDF 598 KB]

Under 19 U.S.C. section 1862 (the legal basis for Section 232 tariffs), the president must decide within 90 days of a required U.S. Commerce Department report whether to issue tariffs and what form they are to take. The president must also implement those tariffs within 15 days of that decision.

The Commerce Department issued its report in January 2018. In response, the president issued a proclamation in March 2018 to impose a 25% ad valorem tariff on imports of steel products from Turkey. Then in August 2018, the president issued a second proclamation imposing a 50% tariff on imports of Turkish steel.

The trade court found the Section 232 tariff increase for Turkish steel products came by way of a presidential proclamation issued beyond the 90-day period after Commerce issued its Section 232 report on steel in January 2018. The government argued that the president has the ability to modify already issued tariffs. The trade court disagreed: “Contrary to the government’s contention, there is nothing in the statute to support the continuing authority to modify Proclamations outside of the stated timelines.”


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