Appeals Court finds Trump’s 25% steel tariff constitutional

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit on Friday upheld a decision by the Court of International Trade that found President Donald Trump did not violate the U.S. Constitution when he imposed a 25% tariff on steel imports in March 2018.

In June 2018, the Alexandria, Virginia-based American Institute for International Steel (AIIS) sued the U.S. government in the Court of International Trade, arguing that the president exceeded his authority to impose tariffs under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act.

The Court of International Trade rejected AIIS’s challenge on March 25, 2019, concluding that the matter is controlled by the Supreme Court’s 1976 decision, Fed. Energy Admin. V. Algonquin SNG, Inc., which said congressional approval is not required to impose Section 232 tariffs.

The Commerce Department opened a Section 232 investigation into the impact of steel imports on U.S. national security in April 2017. In January 2018, the department provided its findings to the president, along with recommendations.

In the report, the Commerce Department found that steel plays a vital role to national security in terms of weapons and military equipment manufacturing and many domestic steel plants had already been driven out of business by “declining steel prices, global overcapacity, and unfairly traded steel.”

On the advice of the Commerce Department, Trump imposed a 25% tariff on steel articles from all countries, with the exception of Mexico and Canada, starting March 23, 2018.

AIIS attempted to appeal the Court of International Trade’s decision to the Supreme Court, but the justices declined to hear the case and the institute’s appeal was referred to the Appeals Court of the Federal Circuit.

The Washington, D.C.-based American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) applauded the federal appeals court’s ruling to uphold the Court of International Trade’s initial decision regarding the Section 232 steel tariffs.

“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 AISI President and CEO Thomas Gibson in a statement. “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.”

AISI, along with the Steel Manufacturers Association, submitted an amicus curiae brief in the case in support of the constitutionality of the Section 232 statute.