In response to widespread concerns about the pace, transparency and fairness of the Section 232 steel and aluminum tariff exclusion process, a bipartisan group of senators has requested that the Government Accountability Office conduct an independent review of the Commerce Department’s performance.
In a Nov. 26 letter to the GAO, U.S. Senators Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), and Tom Carper (D-Del.) called for the review. Commerce had received 49,301 exclusion petitions and had issued decisions for just 16,567 (34 percent) of them as of the end of October. In their letter, the senators called for GAO to investigate key questions about the current process, including the criteria used to approve or deny an exclusion petition, how to improve the pace of the process and the cost to taxpayers.
“The Commerce Department exclusion process for the Trump administration’s tariffs on steel and aluminum has generated a large backlog of petitions and has placed significant burdens on American businesses,” the senators wrote. “As a result of the Section 232 actions, U.S. trading partners have levied retaliatory tariffs on billions of dollars of American exports. In addition, several countries, including U.S. allies like Canada, Mexico and the European Union (EU), have filed disputes against the United States using the World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute mechanism.”
The Trump administration maintains that duties of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum imports are needed to protect domestic metals production, which is essential for national security, from unfair foreign competition. The tariffs took effect in March on imports from most countries and in June on Mexico, Canada and the EU. Congress could use the findings of the GAO report to push for changes to the exclusion process next year.
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