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U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs: Exclusion and relief process explained

Author(s): Riyaz Dattu, Gajan Sathananthan

Jun 11, 2018

As discussed in our earlier trade brief, on June 1, 2018, the U.S. administration imposed tariffs of 25% and 10%, respectively, on Canadian-made steel and aluminum shipped to the U.S.

This international trade brief explains the exclusion process that the U.S. Department of Commerce has implemented for obtaining relief from these tariffs. Under this process, individuals or organizations engaged in business activities in the United States and using steel or aluminum products that are subject to the tariffs can submit an exclusion request. Separate exclusion requests are required for each product that is imported into the United States, and each exclusion request must provide a full factual description of the specific product, its properties and the quantity projected to be imported into the U.S. in a one-year period. The request must also demonstrate lack of harm to U.S. national security.

Once an exclusion request is submitted, the Department of Commerce posts it for public comments for 30 days. Objections to the exclusion request may be filed during this 30-day period. Objections can cite the availability of U.S.-made comparable products. Many companies have filed requests with the Department of Commerce based on short supply and the inability of U.S. steel manufacturers to meet their needs. Schick Manufacturing Inc. of Connecticut, for example, is asking for an exclusion for the blade steel it imports from Japan for shaving razors, on the basis that “historically there has never been U.S. production of this material.”

According to the Department of Commerce announcement, each exclusion request was to have a turnaround time of 90 days. However, the Department of Commerce was inundated with requests when the tariffs were first implemented against certain non-NAFTA countries, with over 3,500 in the queue as of April 27, 2018.[1] As a result, the initial posting of many of the filed requests was delayed, which could lead to final decisions taking longer than the projected 90 days. By April 30, 2018, 930 of the applications that had initially been rejected for technical reasons had been refiled. The process has understandably been called “overly burdensome” by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Nevertheless, it does provides an avenue for seeking relief from these onerous duties.

Osler has over 25 years of experience in making submissions on tariff-related matters with deep expertise in steel products and the making of remission applications or requests for exclusions. We can assist clients or their customers by ensuring they develop a detailed, complete and persuasive exclusion request to the Department of Commerce.

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