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April 16, 2018 | by    

U.S. Commerce Department Has Received More Than 800 Requests To Exclude Products From Steel, Aluminum Tariffs

The U.S. House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing last Thursday on the effects the Trump administration’s new tariffs will have on U.S. jobs and the economy. Lawmakers and hearing witnesses discussed several issues, including the effects the tariffs will have on downstream companies, competition with Canada, and consumer price increases. An archived webcast of the hearing is available here.

As Capitol Hill debates the effects of all of the Trump administration’s tariffs, the U.S. Commerce Department continues to take requests for product exemptions from its Section 232 aluminum and steel penalties. According to Politico, the department already has received more than 800 requests for exclusions. Most of those—a full 700—are requests to be excluded from the 25 percent steel tariff.

As Connecting the Dots has reported previously, the process for requesting an exclusion is as follows:

  • All exclusion requests must be submitted through www.regulations.gov. The steel docket number is BIS-2018-0006. The aluminum docket number is BIS-2018-0002.
  • Only individuals or organizations using the steel or aluminum articles in business activities in the United States may submit exclusion requests. Requestors must have an Employer Identification Number or a Customs and Border Protection Import Number.
  • Any individual or enterprise in the United States may file an objection to exclusion requests. Steel objection forms are here; aluminum forms arehere.
  • A separate exclusion request “must be submitted on each distinct type and dimension” of the steel or aluminum product to be imported. Separate exclusion requests are required for products “with chemistry by percentage breakdown by weight, metallurgical properties, surface quality (e.g., galvanized, coated, etc.), and distinct critical dimensions (e.g., 0.25-inch rebar, 0.5-inch rebar; 0.5-inch sheet, or 0.75 sheet) covered by a common HTSUS subheading.” Separate exclusion requests are required for aluminum products “with distinct critical dimensions (e.g., 10 mm diameter bar, 15 mm bar, or 20 mm bar) covered by a common HTSUS statistical reporting number.” For both steel and aluminum, separate exclusion requests must also be submitted for products falling in more than one 10-digit HTSUS statistical reporting number. 
  • There is no time limit for exclusion requests, but objections to exclusion requests must be submitted 30 days after the exclusion requests are posted on www.regulations.gov.
  • Approved exclusions are made only for the product requested imported by the individual or organization making the request, unless the Commerce Department approves a broader exclusion. Subsequent requests by other individuals or enterprises may be made for the same product type through new supplements. As Politico’s “Morning Trade” explains, this means “a product excluded for one company is not excluded for another unless the second company has also requested and received an exclusion.”
  • The Commerce will review any exclusion request, even if a request for the same product was previously denied.
  • Companies with business confidential Information should indicate on the form that they have such information.
  • Review of exclusion requests will generally take place within 90 days.
  • Exclusions will generally be approved for only one year.

The department also has published special information regarding exemptions from the steel tariffs—those instructions are available here—and for the aluminum tariffs. (The aluminum instructions are at this link.) In a hearing on Capitol Hill last month, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross promised that any products that are excluded would be protected retroactively. (The Commerce Department initially said there would be no retroactivity.) Secretary Ross said the agency already had “made a formal request to the Customs and Border Patrol” to establish escrow accounts. Secretary Ross explained this practice is “quite commonplace between us and the Customs and Border Patrol in the context of anti-dumping and countervailing duties.” The White House has affirmed the retroactivity policy, explaining the product exemptions “shall be retroactive to the date the request for exclusion was posted for public comment." Again, this differs from the forms originally posted by the Commerce Department that had indicated tariff relief would be effective five business days after the approval is posted on www.regulations.gov.