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Steel tariffs turn a year old, survive a legal challenge

Steel coils sit on wagons when leaving the Thyssenkrupp steel factory in Duisburg, Germany last. Section 232 tariffs are now a year old and just survived a challenge in court.

The steel tariffs of 25 percent on all foreign-made steel marked their one-year anniversary last week and survived a lawsuit filed by steel importers.

The U.S. Court of International Trade rejected a legal challenge to the constitutionality of the Section 232 tariffs, which have been credited with reducing imports, raising steel prices and making the domestic steel industry more financially successful. The court ruled it lacked the authority to second-guess the Trump administration on the duties, which raise the cost of buying steel manufactured abroad.

“The Court of International Trade rightly affirmed our strong belief that the constitutional challenge to the Section 232 statute was and is without merit," American Iron and Steel Institute President and CEO Thomas Gibson said. "This lawsuit was theater by the importers, designed to divert from the real issue which is that unfairly traded foreign imports had a disastrous impact on the steel industry, creating a real threat to our national and economic security. The president’s bold trade actions have now helped the industry gain some momentum, and today’s CIT decision builds on that momentum."

The rival American Institute for International Steel, which represents steel consumers, plans to appeal the ruling that affirmed the administration's power to impose tariffs for national security reasons.

The AIIS contends only Congress should regulate commerce in that fashion under the constitution.

“We are heartened that the Court of International Trade recognized that section 232, in the court’s words, 'seem[s] to invite the president to regulate commerce by way of means reserved for Congress,'" AIIS President Richard Chriss said. "Unfortunately, the court also found that a 1976 Supreme Court decision foreclosed closer review of the merits of our constitutional claim by the CIT itself. But we remain convinced that, as one of the judges wrote today in a separate opinion, ‘it is difficult to escape the conclusion that the statute has permitted the transfer of power to the president in violation of the separation of powers.’ We are appealing immediately in order to continue making that argument.”

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.