Transpacific Steel LLC et al v. United States et al
Section: Federal Circuit and CIT Case Summaries

In a split opinion, the Federal Circuit found President Trump’s March 2018 increase of Steel Section 232 duties on Turkish imports to be consistent with 19 USC § 1862(c)(1) and the Fifth Amendment equal protection guarantee, reversing the CIT’s opinion otherwise.
In August 2018, the President issued Proclamation 9772, which increased the tariff on Turkish steel imports originally imposed in March 2018. Transpacific and other importers of Turkish steel (Plaintiff-Appellees) contended, and the CIT found, that Proclamation 9772 was unlawful because it was issued outside 90-day period for the President to concur or disagree with the Secretary of Commerce’s investigation findings and to determine how to respond to the threat, and after the 15-day period for the President to implement that response, set out § 1862(c)(1). Judges Taranto and Chen disagreed, holding that “§ 1862(c)(1) permits the President to announce a continuing course of action within the statutory time period and then modify the initial implementing steps in line with the announced plan of action by adding impositions on imports to achieve the stated implementation objective.” The Federal Circuit further found that the President’s initial March 2018 action “announced a continuing course of action that could include adjustments as time passed,” and that the subsequent increase in tariffs on Turkish imports was premised in the same rationale as the March 2018 action. Under these specific circumstances, the Federal Circuit found that Proclamation 9772 did not violate the procedural timelines set forth in § 1862.
Plaintiff-Appellees further contended, and the CIT found, that singling out Turkish imports for a tariff increase violated their equal protection guarantee under the Fifth Amendment. Reversing, the Federal Circuit held that “[t]he most demanding standard that could apply here is the undemanding rational-basis standard,” because Plaintiff-Appellees “made no persuasive case” that a heightened standard of review would apply to importers of a particular product from a particular country. The Federal Circuit further held that the tariff increase was “one of a number of possible steps to achieve the goal of increasing utilization of domestic steel plants’ capacity to try to improve their sustainability for national security reasons,” and that explanation meets the rational-basis standard for government action.
Judge Reyna dissented. Because Section 232 is a trade statute, and trade authority is vested in Congress’s constitutional tariff power, Judge Reyna disagreed that § 1862 delegated to the President authority to adjust imports outside of the statute’s plain language time limits.