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Wheat industry warns against restricting steel importsWheat industry warns against restricting steel imports

Import protection disguised as national security measure would set a dangerous precedent, wheat group warns.

June 9, 2017

2 Min Read
Wheat industry warns against restricting steel imports

The U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) has released public comments, including comments submitted by U.S. Wheat Associates (USW), related to its investigation into the national security implications of steel imports.

USW believes that if the U.S. goes down the path of restricting steel imports, many countries may use the same national security pretense to restrict imports from U.S. wheat farmers; after all, food security has always been tied to national security.

Under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, DOC may investigate the effect of imports on national security. DOC announced its investigation of steel imports on April 20, 2017. It is the first such investigation since 2001. Findings could lead to a conclusion that protective duties on imported steel should be applied for national security reasons.

The World Trade Organization allows countries to impose trade restrictions for very few reasons, including national security. This exception is rarely used outside of weapons, nuclear materials and the like, because most countries understand that doing so would open a Pandora’s Box of competing national security claims.

“Pursuing a strategy of import protection under the guise of national security would set a dangerous precedent,” USW president Alan Tracy said. “If the United States undermines WTO national security exemptions, it would be handing a gift-wrapped road map of protectionism to food self-sufficiency advocates all over the world.”

If the U.S. went first with a commonly traded product like steel, many countries could be eager to include food security in the exception.

“I’m all for challenging unfair subsidies, but farmers like me know you need to use the right tool to fix a problem,” said USW chairman Jason Scott, a wheat farmer from Easton, Md. “Citing national security to block imports like this would be like lighting a fire to kill a weed. It might do the job, but you could destroy the whole field.”

DOC has authorized duties only twice after Section 232 investigations and not once since WTO was created in 1995. The WTO agreements include an exemption under Article XXI of the General Agreement on Tariffs & Trade for trade restrictions related to “essential security interests,” which can be defined broadly by a WTO member country.

To view the full submission of comments by USW, click here.

USW’s mission is to “develop, maintain and expand international markets to enhance the profitability of U.S. wheat producers and their customers.” USW activities in more than 100 countries are made possible through producer checkoff dollars managed by 18 state wheat commissions and cost-share funding provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service. For more information, visit www.uswheat.org.

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