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US Commerce secretary says 232 decision on hold until after tax reform

The US Department of Commerce will not take action on its Section 232 investigation on steel imports until the administration is able to make progress on tax reform, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Friday. "On 232, the policy decision has been made to postpone that until the tax bill," Ross said in an interview on Bloomberg Television.

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In April, Commerce self-initiated a Section 232 investigation on the impact of steel imports on national security. The investigation, which could result in the introduction of tariffs, duties or other measures, typically takes 270 days, but the administration said it was fast-tracking the decision and expected to release the results by the end of June.

Related post on The Barrel blog: Steel industry looks to jump-start Trump trade engine

"On steel [Trump] has announced publicly that he wants that 232 report delayed until we get through the tax thing because we don't want to interfere with the legislative agenda," Ross said.

Tax reform is the single most important issue on the administration's plate at the moment, according to Ross.

"What we don't want to do is things that will unnecessarily irritate the Senate because we need the votes there, and as was proven with health care, there's a very fragile margin," Ross said in an interview Friday with CNBC. "[For 232], it's a question of timing, more than it is direction."

In regard to the potential outcome of the 232 investigation, Ross declined to comment on whether Trump was favoring tariffs as a resolution.

Related: Find more content about Trump's administration in our news and analysis feature.

--Justine Coyne, justine.coyne@spglobal.com

--Edited by Annie Siebert, ann.siebert@spglobal.com