A National Security Argument on Trade

Apr 21, 2017 | 00:45 GMT

A decision to explore the national security implications of steel imports to the United States could signal a tactic being considered by the U.S. presidential administration to justify tariffs under WTO rules.

(KEVIN FRAYER/Getty Images)

This week, U.S. President Donald Trump announced two moves he hopes will boost the country's manufacturing sector. On Tuesday, Trump signed an executive order instructing the government's executive branch to increase the amount of U.S.-made goods and services it purchases. He followed Thursday by telling the Department of Commerce to open an investigation into whether importing steel harms the national security interests of the United States by sidelining its industrial capacity to meet domestic demand. Invoking national security as a reason to restrict imports presents a slippery slope for trade. Should the Trump administration’s investigation find that steel imports harm U.S. national security, it would not only empower the president to impose unlimited tariffs on imports of those products but it also would pave the way for similar investigations in other economic sectors. Either way, the strategy would in all likelihood face a challenge in the World Trade Organization....

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