Background

The Department of Commerce announced June 20 that it has granted 42 exclusions from the additional 25 percent tariff on steel products imposed earlier this year. A DOC press release states that these exclusions cover seven different companies importing steel products from Japan, Sweden, Belgium, Germany, and China. The department has also denied another 56 exclusion requests from 11 different companies.

(The DOC’s announcement did not include a list of the final determinations, which instead are listed individually here under docket numbers BIS-2018-0006 (steel) and -0002 (aluminum).)

The exclusions announced this week were the first made public since the exclusion request process was established months ago. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross revealed at a June 20 Senate Finance Committee hearing that the DOC has received more than 20,000 exclusion requests but has posted less than half (9,200) for public comment and made final determinations on less than 100. More than 2,300 objections to exclusion requests have been received as well.

Ross defended the DOC’s handling of the requests, which he said is “fair and transparent” and “accounts for the needs of downstream industries while also recognizing the threatened impairment of our national security caused by imports.” However, several senators at the hearing reiterated what has been a growing sense of frustration at the department’s pace of processing requests.

In addition, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., accused the Trump administration in a June 20 letter of “subverting Section 232 and seizing unilateral power to impose or reduce tariffs at will,” which “has upset the long-standing laws and traditions of our country and shifted the balance of power within our government.” Corker therefore asked Ross for assurances that the DOC’s exclusion decisions will be “free of political interference or persuasion.”

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