Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 (19 USC § 1862) authorizes the secretary of the US Department of Commerce (Secretary) to conduct investigations “to determine the effects on [US] national security” of imports of an article.

Initiating a 232 Investigation

An investigation can be initiated in one of three ways:

  1. By request of the head of any department or agency
  2. Upon application of an interested party
  3. Upon the Secretary’s own motion

Section 232 investigations consider a wide range of factors, including:

  • Domestic production needed for projected national defense requirements
  • Domestic industry’s capacity to meet those requirements
  • Importation of goods and their quantities and use
  • Close relation of national economic welfare to US national security
  • Any loss of skills or investment, substantial unemployment, or decrease in government revenue caused by the imported articles
  • Impact of foreign competition on specific domestic industries, including the impact of displacement of any domestic products by excessive imports

The Secretary must notify the secretary of the Department of Defense that an investigation has been initiated, and the agencies must consult with each other regarding any issues raised by the investigation. Commerce can and does seek information and advice from other government agencies when conducting 232 investigations, as well as input from industry and the public through open hearings and written submissions.

Past 232 Investigations

Since 1980, Commerce has conducted 16 Section 232 investigations. Past investigations and the remedies applied have included the following:

Subject Article(s)

Filing Date

Remedy (if any)

Glass-lined chemical processing equipment

1981

No harm found

Ferroalloys

1981

No harm found

Crude oil from Libya

1982

Blocked all imports of crude oil from Libya

Metal-cutting and metal-forming machine tools

1983

Voluntary restraint agreements with multiple countries on imports and an aggressive domestic industry competitiveness action plan

Nuts, bolts, and large screws

1983

No harm found

Antifriction bearings

1988

Implementation of Buy American Act restrictions on super precision bearings for jet engines and miniature and instrument precision bearings for guidance systems

Uranium

1989

No harm found

Plastic injection molding

1989

No harm found

Crude oil and petroleum products

1989

Implementation of program to increase domestic energy production by enacting comprehensive natural gas reform; permit environmentally sound oil exportation and development of the Arctic national Wildlife Refuge Coastal Plain in Alaska and of outer continental shelf; ensure the viability of nuclear power through licensing; removal of tax disincentives to domestic oil exploration and development and reducing early well development; filling the SPR to 750 million gallons

Gears and gearing products

1992

No harm found

Ceramic semiconductor packaging

1993

Defense provided research and development funding for industry

Crude oil and petroleum products

1994

Continued use of supply enhancement and energy conservation and efficiency policies

Crude oil

1999

Continued implementation of the policy goals set forth in the Department of Energy 1998 Comprehensive National Energy Strategy

Iron ore and semi-finished steel

2001

No harm found

Steel

2017

25% tariff on specified products

Aluminum

2017

10% tariff on specified products

Investigation Report

Commerce provides a report to the president within 270 days of initiation of an investigation. This report must examine whether the importation of the article in question is in such quantities or under such circumstances as to “threaten to impair [US] national security” and, if so, provide recommendations for remedying the harm.

Within 90 days after receiving the department’s report, the president must concur with or dispute the department’s determination. If the president concurs, the president must take action no later than 15 days after agreement with the department’s conclusion, and must provide a written statement of explanation to Congress no later than 30 days after agreement with the department’s conclusion.

Presidential Authority After a Determination of Harm

Following the determination that the importation of the article threatens to impair US national security, the president “shall take such other actions as the president deems necessary to adjust the imports of such article so that such imports will not threaten to impair the national security.” (19 USC § 1862(c)(3)(A)). The president may take a number of actions to address the harm, including “adjust[ing] the imports of an article,” imposing tariffs or other trade remedies, or addressing the problem through non-trade-related actions such as domestic industry assistance.