The American Institute for International Steel and two steel companies are seeking to put a halt to the tariffs of 25 percent on foreign steel that were imposed after a flood of imports battered the domestic steelmaking industry in recent years.

AIIS, along with oil country tubular goods maker Sim-Tex and steel-trader Kurt Orban Partners, filed a motion for summary judgment in their lawsuit arguing against the Constitutionality of the law allowing the president to impose tariffs on the grounds that the erosion of the U.S. steel industry is a threat to national security. 

So far, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has collected more than $582 million in tariffs on foreign steel.

“Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act allows the president nearly unfettered discretion to impose tariffs and create other trade barriers if he simply decides that imports threaten to impair U.S. national security,” AIIS President Richard Chriss said. “At the same time, the law allows tremendous latitude to the president in determining what constitutes a threat. The United States Constitution provides important checks on the president’s power, and the Section 232 trade provision stands in clear violation of that balance.”

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The Falls Church, Virginia-based steel trade association, a longtime vocal advocate for free trade, argues the tariffs have resulted in price increases of 50 percent and a disruption to the supply chain that's made it hard to source particular types of steel.

“In Section 232, the U.S. Congress has transferred to the president the ability to make the essential policy choices that the Constitution assigns to Congress alone,” AIIS attorney Alan Morrison said. “Congress is required to retain those policy choices under our Constitution, a notion supported by the principles of separation of powers that animate it. At the end of the day, Congress alone should exert this authority, in keeping with how our system was designed.”

The tariffs have boosted the bottom lines of steel companies as contract negotiations with the United Steelworkers union have resumed. But the duties have increasingly come under fire from many business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, because they're resulted in retaliatory tariffs from China, Canada, the European Union and other trade partners.


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.