US Commerce Department releases rules for Section 232 exemption process

Rules for individuals and companies seeking steel and aluminium product exemptions to the United States' recently announced Section 232 tariffs have been released by the US Commerce Department, which started accepting applications on Monday March 19.

The review of exclusion requests, including time needed to consider objections to proposed exclusions, will take 90 days or less, Commerce said on March 18. The forms for submitting exclusion requests are available on the US government’s regulations website.

Exclusion requests will be reviewed by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, along with other administration officials, taking into account national security concerns. Under consideration will be whether a product is produced in the US of a suitable quality or in an adequate and reasonably available amount.

“These procedures will allow the administration to further hone these tariffs to ensure they protect our national security while also minimizing undue impact on downstream American industries,” Ross said in a statement.

Prices for many metals have soared in recent months in anticipation of the tariffs, particularly with the lack of clarity surrounding product and country exemptions.

For example, American Metal Market’s hot-rolled coil index stands at $41.78 per hundredweight ($835.60 per ton), up 28% from $32.63 per cwt at the start of the year.

Exclusion requests will only be accepted from individuals or organizations that use the steel or aluminium products identified in the proclamations signed by Trump and that conduct business in the US. Requests will be posted on the regulations website for a 30-day comment period.

Trump signed the tariffs – 25% for imported steel and 10% on aluminium – into law with two separate proclamations on March 8.

Each unique steel or aluminium product import requires an exclusion request, along with a full factual description of the specific product, its properties and the quantity.

Any individual or organization in the US is able to file objections to exclusion requests, although they must be submitted within 30 days after the exclusion request is posted, according to the Federal Register. Organizations filing an objection should provide specific information about the product that their company can provide that is comparable to the product that is the subject of the exclusion request.

Organizations filing an objection should also include factual information about their production capabilities in the US, the availability and delivery time of the products manufactured and analysis on the suitability of its product for the application identified by the exclusion requestor.

Both the exclusion requests and objection filings will be available to the public on the regulations website, as well as responses to all exclusion requests.

End-users have argued that a number of metal products are not well served by domestic mills, including thin-gauge aluminium, electrical steel, wire rod, some line pipe grade/size combinations and tinplate.