As the White House prepares to submit the Trans-Pacific Partnership to Congress in the coming months, it has been touting its record on trade enforcement to persuade lawmakers to vote for the 12-nation pact. The United Steelworkers union on Monday upped the ante on that front by asking President Barack Obama to impose a 50 percent duty on aluminum imports from China and other suppliers as soon as July.
The U.S. International Trade Commission would normally take up to six months to investigate the Section 201 petition for global import relief and make recommendations to Obama, who would have another two months to decide what action to take. However, the union is asking the ITC to make a finding of “critical circumstances” within 60 days so Obama can act quickly to keep additional U.S. aluminum smelters from closing.
If the trade panel makes that determination, the president would then have 30 days to approve some of type of provisional relief while the Section 201 case proceeds for another six to eight months, Terry Stewart, a lawyer for the union group, said.
The timing isn’t ideal for Obama’s TPP push. The aluminum case potentially puts the president on the spot by forcing him to decide whether to impose the 50-percent “provisional” duty sought by the steelworkers while the Section 201 investigation proceeds. If he decides against it or puts in place some lesser relief, that could jeopardize potential votes for the TPP pact.