The agriculture industry challenged the use of national security as a reason to limit steel and aluminum imports, in a missive to Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross on Monday. A letter from 18 agricultural associations urged the administration to consider the consequences trade barriers may have on the food industry.
“Many countries that export steel to the United States are also large importers of U.S. agriculture products. The potential for retaliation from these trading partners is very real,” said the associations.
The Section 232 national security argument under the 1994 General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade Arcticle XXI is rarely used, and for good reason, said the association officials, who called it the “Pandora’s Box of the GATT.”
Since no one country can dictate the security needs of another, others may follow the United States’ example and find ways to circumvent trade commitments by invoking national security, argued the group.
U.S. farmers rely on international trade agreements to keep markets open. “Undermining that system through an extraordinarily loose application of national security exceptions would be a short-sighted mistake.”
The associations urged the Department of Commerce to avoid “igniting a trade war” through its use of Section 232.
The American Institute for International Steel forwarded to its members the agriculture association letter as another example of the large and growing unpopularity of the Section 232 initiative.
“It is now abundantly clear that it is the voice of the AIIS, as well as others, that continues to lead and to be heard on this issue within the administration, as evidenced by the somewhat surprising and unexpected delays in completing the investigation phase of this process,” wrote AIIS Chairman John Foster. “Our objective remains to stress that no new protectionist actions are needed for steel.”
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