The US Department of Commerce has developed a new online portal for Section 232 exclusion requests, in order to streamline the exclusions process and enhance data integrity and quality controls, according to a notice in the Federal Register dated Monday June 10.
Starting on Thursday June 13, Commerce will begin accepting exclusion requests on the new portal - at trade.gov/232/steelalum, via the International Trade Administration’s (ITA) website - and will stop accepting requests on the Federal rulemaking portal at regulations.gov.
The portal will not be available until June 13, a Commerce spokesman confirmed to Fastmarkets AMM.
Industry participants and trade experts previously criticized the exclusions process, now in its second year, as being cumbersome, time-consuming and opaque. The current exclusions process includes requests, objections, rebuttals and surrebuttals.
“While regulations.gov was readily available to quickly implement the exclusions process, the site was not easily adaptable to the 232 submissions process, particularly as it evolved into a multi-step system and required a significant amount of human data entry,” the department said in the Federal Register notice.
As a result, Commerce determined that “a specifically designed Web-based portal would be easier and more efficient for both outside parties and the department.”
Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) and the ITA developed the new portal, which replaces the existing data collection point with Web-based forms and allows 232 submitters to view all exclusion request, objection, rebuttal and surrebuttal documents in one Web-based system.
A user guide for the portal also has been published on the department’s website.
Commerce will accept public comments on the new portal until August 9, according to the notice.
The department will continue to use regulations.gov to process all exclusion requests that have already been filed or that are filed no later than June 12, including related submissions that are filed in regulations.gov after June 12, until the underlying exclusions requests receive a final decision, Commerce said.
Commerce had announced plans for the new portal in November 2018. A partial government shutdown that extended from late December 2018 through late January 2019 effectively halted 232 exclusion request reviews.
As of March 18, 51,345 steel and aluminium tariff exclusion requests had been filed by 905 firms, according to data produced by researchers with the Trade and Immigration Project of the Mercatus Center.
Of those, 45,328 exclusion requests sought exemption from the steel tariffs, and the BIS had reached a decision on 61.9% - approving 21,464 and denying 6,588. Of the remaining 6,017 exclusion requests, filed for exemption from the aluminium tariffs, the BIS had reached a decision on 78.2%, with 4,069 approved and 637 denied.