Trade Cases

Commerce Inundated with Tariff Exclusion Requests

Written by Tim Triplett

Thousands of manufacturers, big and small, have filed paperwork with the Commerce Department requesting that their products be exempted from the 25 percent tariff on steel imports and 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports. Their argument is that their product must be imported because it is not produced in the United States in a sufficient and reasonably available amount or that it is essential for the nation’s security. Commerce is struggling to process the high volume of requests, leaving applicants to wonder when and how their fate will be determined.

One producer, which relies on raw materials from its parent company located outside the United States, filed its exemption request on in early April. Domestic competitors then had 30 days to comment. “The government now has 90 days to make a decision, but nobody knows what that process is about,” said a spokesperson for the filer. “The big question on the table at this point is, now what? If the U.S. industry says it can make the product, is that the end of it, or is there a verification process?”

A search of indicates that 2,527 requests for exclusions had been posted for public comment as of May 10.

A bipartisan group of 39 House members sent a letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on May 7 urging him to streamline the review process and provide certainty and relief to the thousands of businesses impacted by the tariffs. Among their recommendations are for Commerce to allow trade associations to apply for exclusions for an industry, and to allow exclusions covering ranges of certain product dimensions with the same HTS code. They also urged the department to clear up misunderstandings over the forms, which contain confusing and contradictory requests.

“It is never going to work to have the U.S. government deciding who can import into this country. A lot of people feel this whole process is very difficult,” commented the spokesperson.

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