By Jonathan Stempel
(Reuters) -A U.S. federal appeals court upheld the imposition of higher tariffs on some imported steel products, reversing a lower court ruling that the Trump administration waited too long to act.
Tuesday’s 3-0 decision by the U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. covers imports of steel derivatives, such as nails and fasteners, that were subjected to 25% tariffs in a January 2020 proclamation by then-President Donald Trump.
Similar tariffs on other imported steel items including flat-rolled products, tubes and pipes had been imposed in 2018, after then-Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross found that imports threatened national security by eroding demand for U.S. steel and depressing the use of domestic steel-producing capacity.
Trump said the new tariffs were needed after capacity utilization had not recovered for an extended period.
In 2021, the U.S. Court of International Trade struck down the new tariffs, saying the White House missed statutory deadlines to impose them.
But the appeals court said a subsequent ruling allowed presidents to impose “contingency-dependent” tariff increases to fulfill their original national security objectives, assuming those objectives remained valid.
Trump imposed the new tariffs to “close a loophole exploited by steel-derivatives importers … to address a specific form of circumvention,” Circuit Judge Richard Taranto wrote.
The Biden administration supported upholding the new tariffs.
The tariffs had been challenged by importers Huttig Building Products Inc, Oman Fasteners LLC and PrimeSource Building Products Inc, which said Congress never granted the president broad power over foreign trade to impose them.
Lawyers for the importers did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The Commerce Department did not immediately respond to a similar request.
The cases are PrimeSource Building Products Inc v U.S. et al, U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 2021-2066; and Oman Fasteners LLC et al v U.S. et al in the same court, No. 2021-2252.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New YorkEditing by Marguerita Choy)