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Tariff exclusion process puzzles US steel importers, producers

Steel and aluminum importers and manufacturers are puzzled with the inconsistencies and the rapid process changes for securing exclusions from the tariffs imposed on the commodities, The Wall Street Journal reported Jan. 2.

Importers are demanding exclusion for steel products they claim are not available in the U.S.

The U.S. Commerce Department has approved about 75% of the 19,000 requests it processed to exclude imported steel products from tariffs as of Dec. 17, 2018, the report said.

The department has allowed tariff-free entry of 3.8 million tonnes of steel, or about 16% of finished foreign steel that entered the U.S. through 11 months of 2018.

About 9,000 pending exclusion requests are facing over 15,000 objections by U.S.-based steel companies. Most of the objections are coming from Nucor Corp., U.S. Steel Corp., AK Steel Holding Corp., TimkenSteel Corp. and Webco Industries Inc., which say they have comparable or identical products to what the importers need. The WSJ cited several domestic suppliers as saying the exclusion request process appears to be random and inconsistent.

The Commerce Department is also revising its exclusion request process to speed up decisions. In response to allegations of inconsistency in the rejection process, the agency said it treats every request and objection fairly.