Tillis, bipartisan contingent seek release of Commerce Dept. report on auto imports

U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) is among a dozen bipartisan members of Congress concerned that America’s national security is threatened by imports of foreign vehicles and their parts.

The 12 senators requested that U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross release the U.S. Commerce Department’s report on the matter and answer several additional questions related to its recently concluded investigation into automotive imports under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. 

And the deadline is looming for Ross to provide those answers, according to a March 19 letter the senators sent to the secretary. 

“We urge you to make public the contents of your agency’s investigation into auto and auto part imports, including any recommendations for 232 action that were made to the president, as well as the national security justification for such actions, as soon as possible,” wrote Sen. Tillis, who was joined by 11 colleagues, including U.S. Sens. Deb Fischer (R-NE), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Joni Ernst (R-IA), and Doug Jones (D-AL) in signing the letter.

Last year, the Commerce Department began its own national security investigation under the statute, which authorizes the president to impose unilateral trade restrictions, such as tariffs and quotas, on certain goods if the department finds such goods “threaten to impair” the national security of the United States, according to information released on March 25 by Sen. Tillis’ office. 

The Commerce Department on Feb. 17 delivered its investigation findings to President Donald Trump, triggering a 90-day period for him to review the report and decide on whether to impose any trade restrictions, according to Sen. Tillis’ statement.

The department has conducted staff briefings for lawmakers on the still-classified Section 232 report, but the senators want Secretary Ross to answer numerous follow-up questions.

For instance, Sen. Tillis and the other senators asked how the Commerce Department defined “national security” for the purpose of its auto investigation; whether it met with any auto industry stakeholders, such as dealers, manufacturers, suppliers, and unions “who were in favor of 232 trade restrictions on autos and auto parts;” and whether the U.S. Department of Defense, which coordinated with the Commerce Department on its investigation, agreed with the report’s conclusions, among other questions.

In their March 19 letter, the senators also requested written responses from Ross within 10 business days, and urged him to publish a summary and “make publicly available the report as soon as possible.”