National Security §232 and Court of International Trade — More Recent Concerns.

To me, the recent skirmish in the Court of International Trade over a newer case, concerning Turkish steel tariffs, indicates that the court is clearly moving to taking a more aggressive view of the legality of the President’s authority under §232. Perhaps, not declaring that provision unconstitutional, but holding the President’s action to a higher standard than previously.

Last week the United States Court of International Trade (CIT) denied the US government’s motion to dismiss a case challenging President Donald Trump’s move to double the tariff imposed on imports from Turkey.

The court seemingly rejected the government’s argument that all the President has to do is to indicate is “a general need” for national security tariffs. The court clearly stated that an “expansive view ” of §232 is mistaken. It also forcefully concluded that the President needs to conform to the procedural requirements of §232.

(The failure to comply with the statutory time period, to act timely after receiving the Commerce Department’s report,  concerning Trump’s threatened auto tariffs on the EU, may well prove to be fatal in that matter. But that’s another story.)

Here are a two quotes from the Court of International Trade recent opinion:

The president’s expansive view of his power under Section 232 [trading regulations] is mistaken… Section 232 requires that the president not merely address a threat to national security; [he] must do all that, in his judgment, will eliminate it.” 

“Although the statute grants the president great discretion in deciding what action to take, it [restricts] the president’s power both substantively, by requiring the action to eliminate threats to national security caused by imports, and procedurally, by setting the time in which to act.” 

The US government requested that the CIT dismiss the case, arguing that the president proclaimed the increase in tariffs lawful and “a general need.” But the CIT denied the government’s motion and the case will continue to move forward at the court.


Slip Opinion, Transpacific Steel (CIT) (Nov. 15, 2019).

“New Section 232 National Security Case in Court of International Trade — Turkish Tariff Increase.” American Metal Market (Nov. 19, 2019).

Malawer, “Trump, Trade and Federal Courts.” China and WTO Review (Sept. 2019).

Malawer, “Section 232 Litigation in the U.S. Court of International Trade and President Trump’s Trade Policies. “  CHINA & WTO REVIEW  (Feb. 2019).


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Bizarre Int’l Investment Proposals from Trump — They Only Hurt the U.S. (Not China).


Trump is exploring delisting Chinese firms on US exchanges, restricting US firms investments in China, and Chinese investments in the US. These proposed restrictions on US-China bilateral investments are really destructive. It goes beyond really dumb tariffs.

Trump’s knowledge of int’l relations, global business & law (both domestic and int’l) gets more questionable every, single day. It’s beyond bizarre. It’s bad for business & the global system. Needless to say also for our economic development & our national security. Did I say bad?

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Trump’s Trade Policies and the Federal Courts — Will the Courts Rein Him In?

My new article on President Trump’s trade policies, delegation of authority and the federal courts. Please click this link ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, Malawer, “Trump, Trade and Federal Courts.” China and WTO Review (Sept. 2019).

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TRADE CASES & TRUMP’S TARIFFS — Restricting Reliance on National Security?


My op-ed in the Richmond Times-Dispatch (June 17, 2019) ………….


                            TRADE CASES AND TRUMP’S TARIFFS —

                           Restricting Reliance on National Security?


                                             By Stuart S. Malawer


I predict that three major federal court cases, which might involve the U.S. Supreme Court, will rein in President Trump’s abuse of trade legislation by November 2020. They all involve presidential claims of national security to impose tariffs and other trade restrictions. To do so would be in the best national security interests of the United States and American democratic governance.

The most recent trade restrictions — who knows which others will arise — concern national security claims as a basis for new tariffs on Mexican goods to induce greater immigration control, restrictions on Chinese telecom giant Huawei in the name of national security, and national security claims for imposing tariffs on steel applicable to many of our trading partners and closest allies.

Two significant court actions already are pending against the Trump administration for its trade actions. The first, which is pending at the Supreme Court, concerns steel imports from many U.S. trading partners, including China. The second, which was just filed, concerns investment and trade restrictions on Huawei. A third case concerning the “Mexican immigration tariffs” is imminent and probably will involve the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, among others.

Filed by steel importers, the first case involves the older Supreme Court case FEA v. Algonquin SNL Inc. (1976), which concerned tariffs and the national security provision (Section 232) of the Trade Expansion Act of the 1960s. This case is now appealed to the Supreme Court by the steel importers, following an adverse decision by the Court of International Trade. The lower court grudgingly upheld President Trump’s steel tariffs because it hesitated to overrule even questionable precedents.

The second case just filed by Huawei addresses the constitutional prohibition against congressional bills of attainder that single out persons, companies or groups for punishment. Congress seemingly singled out Huawei by imposing restrictions on it for national security reasons under the new National Defense Authorization Act (Section 889).

The third possible case, threatening tariffs on Mexican imports, is based upon President Trump’s claim that Mexican immigration policy is a threat to U.S. national security under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. Any legal action would certainly raise the threshold issue, if that claim is sufficient to satisfy the national security requirement that allows for a valid emergency declaration.

Federal courts review presidential actions even when they involve foreign policy.

This goes back to United States v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corp. (1936), a Supreme Court case involving an arms embargo declared by President Roosevelt during the Chaco War in Latin America, and Youngstown Sheet & Tube v. Sawyer (1952), where the Supreme Court addressed President Truman’s seizure of steel mills during the Korean War. In this case, the court clearly stated that the president’s powers as commander in chief do not include seizing domestic steel mills. Justice Robert Jackson stated the president is commander in chief of the military, not commander in chief of the nation.

Presidential actions — even when the president argues they are not reviewable by courts — are indeed subject to judicial review. This is what is called the rule of law. Congress makes the laws, and all laws and executive actions must comply with the U.S. Constitution to uphold the structure of the federal government and to preserve individual rights. This is the essence of America’s exceptionalism.

Under the U.S. Constitution, Congress has exclusive authority over trade. However, much of this authority has been delegated to the executive branch over the decades. So far, Congress has failed to reclaim its trade authority.

Congress has the sole constitutional authority to enact new taxes. Congress never intended to abrogate its taxing authority by allowing any president to unilaterally impose new tariffs, which are taxes on U.S. imports paid by U.S. firms and consumers. Tariffs and foreign retaliatory tariffs hurt everyone, including farmers, importers, consumers and domestic producers. They are detrimental to state and national economic development.

I predict the federal courts will uphold the separation of powers in face of this unprecedented onslaught of presidential tariff and trade actions by a president relying on dubious claims of nation security. This system has been the foundation of U.S. foreign and national security policy since 1945 and remains so today. The preservation of this system is in the national security interest of the United States, as well as basic American governance.


Stuart S. Malawer is Distinguished Service Professor of Law and International Trade at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government. Contact him at



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National Security & Trade Law: New U.S. and WTO Cases — Troubles for Trump’s Trade Policy?


National Security & Trade: New U.S. and WTO Cases —

 An Invitation to Even More Struggles for the Trump Administration


Stuart S. Malawer, J.D., Ph.D. Distinguished Service Professor of Law and International Trade at George Mason University (Schar School of Policy and Government). Member of Virginia’s Advisory Committee on International Trade.



Two historic cases involving the issues of national security and trade have been decided recently, one by a federal court and one by a panel at the World Trade Organization (WTO). Despite the grave importance of these two cases for the United States and the global trading system, not much attention has been given to them.

         The first case, American Institute for International Steel v. United States, was decided by the Court of International Trade in New York on March 25, 2019. This upheld the president’s authority to impose tariffs under Section 232(b) of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 in cases involving threats to national security. This is the first time in over forty years that a federal court has addressed this issue and upheld the president’s delegated authority to do this.

          The second case, Ukraine v. Russia Concerning Traffic in Transit, was decided by a panel within the dispute resolution system of the WTO on April 5, 2019. The panel upheld the right of the Russian Federation to impose restrictions on Ukraine under GATT Article XXI, the national security exception. This is the first time the WTO has ever applied this provision. The panel decided that national security as a defense was reviewable by the WTO. Additionally, it determined that Russia’s reliance on it was justifiable.


    The US submission, as a third-party, argued against the WTO’s jurisdiction to hear this issue. This is pprobably because it intends to raise this same defense in the barrage of litigation already filed in the WTO against the U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum, which rely upon Section 232. The U.S. probably will also rely upon the GATT Article XXI defense when its new sanctions on Cuba are utilized which allow extensive litigation against a wide range of foreign companies dealing with nationalized properties.

     What do these cases mean for the U.S. and the Trump administration’s trade and tariff polices? To me, they mean big trouble. Why?

     Reading the federal case closely discloses serious concerns about the court’s judgment: “To be sure, section 232 regulation plainly unrelated to national security would be, in theory, reviewable as action in excess of the President’s section 232 authority.” A blistering separate opinion questioning the delegation of authority to the president is provided in an even graver tone: “If the delegation permitted by section 232, as now revealed, does not constitute excessive delegation in violation of the Constitution, what would?”

     The report of the WTO panel concluded, “This is the first dispute in which a WTO dispute settlement panel is asked to interpret Article XXI ….” It argued that under customary international rules of interpretation, the panel can judicially review invocation of national security and that Russia met its requirements. The panel went on to warn, “However, this does not mean that a member is free to elevate any concern to that if an ‘essential security’ interest.”

     So what does this mean for the Trump administration?

     It ought to be very concerned. The Court of International Trade decision will undoubtedly be appealed directly to the US Supreme Court. The warnings in its opinions are ominous. The WTO panel decision is more than ominous. It considers claims of national security to be both reviewable by the WTO panel and subject to a decision on their merits.

     My guess is that the Trump administration will fight to preclude a Supreme Court review of the issue of the legality of the delegation of national security powers and will outwardly be even more hostile to the WTO, if that’s even possible. No one can say that law and trade aren’t among the crucial issues of the day.


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US Court of International Trade — Pending §232 Steel Case — Real Danger for the Trump Administration.

      This article discusses American Institute for International Steel v. the United States, which is pending in the little-known United States Court of International Trade in New York. It involves an attempt to declare that the US legislation delegating authority to the president to impose trade restrictions is an unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority. A loss would legally curtail the president’s discretionary power to use national security as a reason to impose punitive measures against trading partners. The article identifies legal trends, where this case fits into the trade policy debates, and why it is so important. The article concludes that domestic U.S. litigation in 2019 may well have a tremendous impact on U.S. law and the global trading system. Many in the domestic and international trading communities (as well as those in the foreign policy and national security communities) are waiting for the results of this little-known steel litigation.

Malawer, “Section 232 Litigation in the U.S. Court of International Trade and President Trump’s Trade Policies.  5 CHINA & WTO REVIEW No. 1 (Feb. 2019).


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To me the US – China trade dispute is not really that much about trade, tariffs or technology. What I would call T3.  

It’s about changing the rules of the game, global relations. In particular, it’s about President Trump’s innate desire to destroy almost everything that preceded him –– alliances, trade flows, global norms and multilateral institutions, Not sure why. But that’s his psychology and method of operating as to everything. Creating havoc. Period.  

In terms of formulating a US trade policy. It would be most effective for the Trump administration (those officials that actually have some real control over policies and who have a minimum sense of diplomatic history, international relations, international economics and international law) to actually utilize the WTO’s dispute resolution system to address real issues.  

This would help channel US-China trade disputes into an international mechanism that can actually assist in resolving real issues. And away from very real and dangerous conflicts and military confrontations.  

The WTO dispute resolution system has a good track history of diplomatic and legal settlement of concrete disputes. It has precluded these disputes from escalating out of control. After all this global system was the American intent behind being the principal architect of the post-war system and the WTO’s dispute resolution system.  

This American policy of fostering an international judicial mechanism reflects the core American belief in a rules-based system and the American values of relying upon a fair judicial determination of conflicts. Not reliance on unilateral actions, raw power politics, the law of the jungle, or bluster and threats.

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