American Institute for International Steel again asks high court to intervene on Section 232

The American Institute for International Steel (AIIS) has again asked the United States Supreme Court to hear its case challenging the constitutionality of Section 232.

AIIS’ move comes after the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said that President Donald Trump acted within the authority granted to him by the Constitution in imposing tariffs and quotas against foreign steel and aluminium on national security grounds, according to an opinion dated Friday February 28.

“We intend to seek Supreme Court review promptly, and we are hopeful that the court will act before it adjourns in June,” Alan Morrison, AIIS lead counsel and associate dean and professor of law at the George Washington University School of Law, said in an email to Fastmarkets AMM on Friday afternoon.

The AIIS, a lobbying group representing steel traders, has argued that Trump’s use of Section 232 was an unconstitutional power grab of trade authority that had been delegated to Congress by the Constitution.

The appeals court’s opinion upheld a decision reached in March of last year by the US Court of International Trade (CIT). “The [CIT] rejected the [AIIS] challenge… We agree, and we therefore affirm,” judges for the appeals court wrote.

The AIIS is now seeking an audience with the Supreme Court for a second time. The group, citing the urgency of its case against Section 232, tried to circumvent the appeals process last April by going straight to the Supreme Court. But the high court in June declined to hear the matter.

The Trump administration had filed a brief with the Supreme Court seeking an end to the AIIS case.

The American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI), a lobbying group that represents domestic steelmakers, said it was “pleased” with the appeals court’s decision.

“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,” AISI president and chief executive officer Thomas J. Gibson said in a statement on Friday.

The Trump administration in March 2018 announced blanket 25% tariffs on steel imported into the US. The AIIS filed a lawsuit challenging the measure in June of that year.

Section 232 caused US steel prices to surge to their highest point in nearly a decade shortly thereafter, although they have since fallen significantly.

Fastmarkets’ daily steel hot-rolled coil index, fob mill US was calculated at $29.47 per hundredweight ($589.40 per short ton) on February 27, down by 35.7% from the nearly 10-year high of $45.84 per cwt reached in early July 2018.

US steel imports have declined since Section 232 was unveiled, totaling 25.29 million tonnes in 2019, according to Census Bureau figures. That was down by 17.3% from 30.57 million tons in 2018 and off by 26.6% from 34.47 million tonnes in 2017.