Following a tweet from President Donald Trump that there was “big news coming soon” for the automotive industry, the Department of Commerce (DOC) formally announced on May 24, 2018 an investigation into the impact of certain automotive imports on US national security interests. The DOC’s action was taken under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, mirroring the recent imposition of 10% and 25% tariffs on certain imports of aluminum and steel, respectively.
“There is evidence suggesting that, for decades, imports from abroad have eroded our domestic auto industry. The Department of Commerce will conduct a thorough, fair, and transparent investigation into whether such imports are weakening our internal economy and may impair the national security.” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross May 23, 2018
According to the DOC notice, the scope of the investigation includes imports of automobiles, SUVs, vans, light trucks, and automotive parts. The investigation will specifically consider whether the decline in domestic production of these products threatens to weaken the economy of the United States. As was the case in the recent Section 232 investigation on certain imports of aluminum and steel, the DOC will conduct this investigation with the required public comment period and public hearing process. No additional information as to possible product exemptions or proposed tariff levels has been offered, but a DOC notice will be published in the Federal Register “shortly” with more details on the investigation, including a timeline for proceedings.