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Expedited 232 product exclusions sought

May 14, 2018 | 01:30 PM | New York | Michael Roh

A speedier review of product exclusion requests to the United States' Section 232 tariffs is needed, the Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA) said, supporting a letter signed by 39 members of Congress to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross urging changes to the process.

“More than 7,700 comments and submissions for product exclusions have been filed with the Department of Commerce on the issue. Less than a third have been processed and posted on the docket,” MEMA said.

“The sheer volume of submissions requesting product exclusions gives us reason for concern,” MEMA executive vice president of government affairs Bill Long said in a statement. “This apparent backlog creates uncertainty for our members, which puts businesses – and jobs – at risk.”

MEMA’s stance on the issue reflects the significant impact of the Section 232 tariffs on the domestic automotive industry.

“Many specialty steel and aluminium materials imported by motor vehicle suppliers are used by hundreds of vehicle parts manufacturers operating in an integrated, complex global supply chain. Suppliers’ access to these specialized products, which are often only available by one or two sources in the world, is critical to the industry and our national economy,” according to MEMA.

On top of the Section 232 tariffs, a shortage of certain aluminium products had been exacerbated by the US sanctions against Russia's UC Rusal, which previously was a major supplier of value-added aluminium products to the domestic market.

As a result, prices for certain aluminium products jumped and have continued to rise.

Metal Bulletin’s US Midwest aluminium foundry alloy premium rose to 15-17 cents per lb delivered duty unpaid on May 11 from 9-11 cents per lb at the start of the year.

The May 7 letter addressed to Ross criticized the Commerce Department for the slow pace at which it has been reviewing the exclusion requests.

"The Department of Commerce announced the exclusion process on March 18, 2018, and began accepting applications a day later. Since then, thousands of applications have been filed. However, as of May 4 the Department has posted 1,572 steel and 129 aluminum applications. That is a far too slow of a pace, given the volume and the fact that this process is over a month-and-a-half old," according to the May 7 letter.

MEMA had previously penned its own letter to President Donald Trump in February, one month prior to the Sectiion 232 tariff announcement in March, requesting that certain products be excluded from the tariffs.