Trump’s authority over auto, steel tariffs challenged

A lawsuit by the American Institute for International Steel says President Donald Trump “simply took advantage of the opportunity to impose his views on international trade on the American people, with nothing in the law to stop him.” Photo credit: Reuters

WASHINGTON — The American Institute for International Steel filed a lawsuit last week in the U.S. Court of International Trade in New York challenging the constitutionality of the statute under which President Donald Trump imposed a 25 percent tariff on imported steel — and is preparing to do to the tune of 20 percent on imported autos.

The suit, which was joined by member companies SIM-TEX of Waller, Texas, and Kurt Orban Partners LLC of Burlingame, Calif., also sees a court order preventing further enforcement of the 25 percent tariff.

The trade association argues that Section 232 of the 1962 Trade Expansion Act is unconstitutional because it allows the president unlimited ability to restrict trade on national security grounds and Congress can’t delegate away all its powers without some guidance on how to act.

“In addition to the totally open-ended choice of how to counter any threat that imports may present, Section 232 allows the President to consider virtually any effect on the U.S. economy as part of ‘national security,'” said AIIS President Richard Chriss in a statement.

Arguing against the unusual vagueness of the congressional delegation of authority makes the AIIS case a more serious legal challenge than one by a steel importer that argues Trump’s statements indicate the motivation is protectionism rather than national defense, legal experts say.

Courts tend to defer to the executive branch in cases of national security, but the basis of the AIIS case has proven successful in other contexts, they say.

AIIS represents steel intermediaries such as railroads, port authorities, union locals, traders and logistics companies. It says they are harmed because the tariff increase significantly reduces the amount of steel imported into the U.S. and thereby reduces their revenues and working hours for employees.



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