The 116th Congress begins on January 3, 2019. Based on projections from yesterday’s midterms, Democrats will control the House of Representatives by a narrow margin, while Republicans will expand their hold on the Senate. The changes to Congress are likely to shape trade policy through 2019, but much will depend on how House Democrats use their new majority, and whether trade is a priority issue or whether it will be overtaken by domestic issues.

Companies will have to carefully navigate the new political environment in order to advance their policy objectives. In addition to accounting for the hard-nosed approach to trade taken by the current administration, an effective policy engagement strategy will have to account for the new political dynamics created by newly empowered House Democrats and a potentially polarized Congress. Companies should be prepared to intervene on issues that are likely to come up in 2019, including: ratification of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA); trade negotiations with the EU, Japan, and the UK; and the ongoing U.S. tariff interventions on China and for sensitive sectors.

Below is our best forecast for the makeup of the trade- and foreign affairs-related committees for the 116th Congress, and their voting record on key pieces of trade legislation:

 

NAFTA
(1994)

China PNTR
(2000)

U.S.-Colombia FTA  (2012)

Korea-U.S.-FTA (2012)

TPA**
(2015)

House Ways and Means
Chair: Richard Neal (D-Massachusetts)

Nay

Yea

Nay

Yea

Nay

Ranking Member: Kevin Brady (R-Texas)

N/A

Yea

Yea

Yea

Yea

House Foreign Affairs
Chair: Eliot Engel (D-New York)

Nay

Nay

Yea

Nay

Nay

Ranking Member: Michael McCaul (R-Texas) OR

N/A

N/A

Yea

Yea

Yea

Joe Wilson (R-South Carolina)

N/A

N/A

Yea

Nay

Yea

Senate Finance
Chair: Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) OR

Yea

Yea

Yea

Yea

Yea

Mike Crapo (R-Idaho)

Nay (as House member)

Yea

Yea

Yea

Yea

Ranking Member: Ron Wyden (D-Oregon)

Yea

Yea

Yea

Yea

Yea

Senate Foreign Relations
Chair: Jim Risch (R-Idaho)

N/A

N/A

Yea

Yea

Yea

Ranking Member: Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey)

Nay

Nay

Nay

Yea

Nay

* China Permanent Normal Trade Relations
** Trade Promotion Authority

We expect the following impacts on 2019 U.S. trade priorities:

Impact on U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA)

The new USMCA is expected to be signed at the end of this month. USMCA would have likely passed in a Republican-held Congress on a bumpy but ultimately consistent trajectory. It will still likely enjoy broad backing in the Republican Senate. With Democrats now in control the House, there may be some new challenges to ratification.

Some of the new provisions in USMCA give cover for Democratic support—including the new wage-based rule of origin for autos and new enforceable labor rules, along with the weakening of investor-state dispute settlement. The Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations (ACTPN), which includes the leaders of United Steelworkers and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, last week expressed unanimous support for the agreement. But these changes still might not be enough to gain wide Democratic support. The Labor Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations (LAC) noted several reservations on the agreement. Major environmental groups are also already preparing for a major advocacy campaign against USMCA. We expect House Democrats to seek additional concessions from the administration, particularly on the enforceability of the new labor provisions, on the environment, or possibly in the area of intellectual property protections.

If USMCA is signed on November 30, the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) would have to publish a study on its probable economic impacts by March 15, 2019, according to Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) procedures. The agreement could theoretically be voted on at any point after publication of the report, but difficulties in assembling the needed votes for implementing legislation would likely delay the process. The Trump Administration may still attempt to withdraw from the existing NAFTA as a tactic to force Congress to pass USMCA. It remains unclear how House Democrats or Senate Republicans would react to such a threat. The role of the business community will be key. The White House would look to U.S. business, including agribusiness, to generate bipartisan support for the agreement.

Impact on Future U.S. FTAs: U.S.-Japan, U.S.-EU, U.S.-UK

The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) notified Congress on October 16 of its intention to begin negotiations for trade agreements with Japan, the EU, and the UK. The earliest that formal negotiations for the Japan and EU agreements could start is January 14, while negotiations with the UK would have to wait until after Brexit on March 29. USTR’s negotiating objectives for these agreements could be published in December or later.

For the new Congress, the Republican majority in the Senate and Democratic majority in the House will have differing sets of concerns for the new negotiations. Senate Republicans will seek many of the outcomes they sought in the NAFTA renegotiation. The Democratic House leadership is likely to call for new measures on labor and the environment, intellectual property, and/or dispute settlement. Some of these, such as opposition to investor-state dispute statement, would resonate with USTR Lighthizer and the White House, though it’s not clear how far the administration would move in the Democrats’ direction on labor or environmental issues. Consideration of the USMCA will be an early test on issues of concern to Democrats that will have implications for other agreements.

USTR is seeking short-term delivery of less controversial outcomes on regulatory alignment and other limited market access issues (such as an enlarged quota for high-quality beef and sales of U.S. soybeans) as part of an early harvest for negotiations with the EU, while with Japan the immediate priorities appear to be focused on market access for autos and agriculture.  Such priorities are not likely to require Congressional ratification and so will be less affected by the changes in Congress.

Impact on Section 301 tariffs

President Trump is expected to meet with President Xi at the G20 Summit in Argentina on November 30- December 1. While the White House has downplayed expectations for the meeting, others see the possibility of beginning a meaningful U.S.-China dialogue and perhaps moderating or delaying additional tariff actions. If no accommodation or way forward is reached, the U.S. has indicated it will increase existing tariffs on certain goods from 10 percent to 25 percent in January, with some reports that the U.S. could also impose new tariffs on nearly all remaining Chinese imports. China would likely respond in kind to any new tariffs.

The new Congress is not likely to change the direction of the U.S. economic relationship with China, although the plight of U.S. farmers facing their worst economic year in a long time might have some effect in pushing individual Members of Congress to seek a moderate course. We expect Republicans in the Senate will continue to have concerns on the impacts of China’s retaliation on the broader economy, but still be reluctant to contradict the administration’s approach. The Democratic-controlled House may be more enthusiastic in supporting tariffs overall and could give the Trump Administration cover to take a harder line if circumstances warrant, although may push back where there are specific constituent impacts. In fact, if the Trump Administration reaches a deal with China at the end of November (or anytime afterward), incoming House Democrats could use their newfound leverage to criticize the administration’s efforts and seek to outflank the administration on China issues. China policy is certain to figure in both parties’ presidential election campaigns as the 2020 presidential election begins to take shape during 2019.

While the current approach broadly to China is likely to continue, there may be enough bipartisan support for the new Congress to continue pushing the administration for a product-exclusion process for the 10 percent tranche of tariffs announced last September.

Impact on Section 232 tariffs

The Trump Administration has implemented tariffs on all imports of steel and aluminum, subject to certain country-specific exceptions. Negotiations for some country-specific exclusions could continue through 2019 (e.g., for Canada, Mexico, Japan, or the EU). In addition, the Trump Administration is considering implementation of tariffs on imports of autos and auto parts.

Changes to the control of Congress are not likely to affect the ongoing Section 232 tariffs related to steel and aluminum. House Democrats and Senate Republicans are likely to take positions on the Section 232 tariffs based on the economic impact for their district or state. Members from steel-heavy districts and states will continue to be supportive of the tariffs, while those from districts and states suffering from negative economic consequences because of retaliation or increased downstream costs are more likely to oppose.

Unless the Trump Administration imposes additional tariffs, we would not expect the new Congress to pass legislation designed to restrict the president’s Section 232 authority, as introduced by Senator Bob Corker (R-Tennessee) in the Senate and Representative Mike Gallagher (R-Wisconsin) in the House earlier this summer. That legislation did not have the votes to pass at the time, and the new Democratic majority in the House is not likely to increase the chances of passage.

In the area of the administration’s potential imposition Section 232 tariffs on autos and auto parts, the economic consequences of the tariffs and any resultant retaliation from other countries are likely to be broad. We would continue to expect a significant degree of bipartisan Congressional opposition to new Section 232 tariffs on autos.

Interaction between International Trade and Domestic Issues

Domestic factors are likely to dominate in shaping international trade and economic policy over the course of the new Congress and the remainder of President Trump’s term. Emerging issues, including renewed interest in comprehensive U.S. federal privacy legislation, could influence future U.S. trade-related rules (e.g., on cross-border data flows) as well as set policy models that other governments could replicate.

While the Trump Administration may be keen to pivot to international issues given its lack of a Congressional majority at home, its ability to negotiate and conclude agreements on multiple fronts could be complicated as it seeks to manage an increased array of investigations and oversight by the Congress. Add to this the inevitable turnover of Cabinet members and White House and Executive Branch staff changes that will occur after the mid-terms, and the administration may see a temporary hiatus in undertaking new policy initiatives, including on trade.

Furthermore, the upcoming presidential campaign could set the stage for an intra-party debate among Democrats on whether to take an even more hawkish approach on trade issues than the current administration; stay the current course; or return to a more centrist policy as was ultimately adopted by the Obama Administration while in office.

During discussions on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on 26 September, President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed to launch bilateral negotiations to reach what Abe termed a “Trade Agreement on Goods.”  The statement issued by the two leaders of the world’s first and third largest economies envisages negotiations proceeding in two phases, the first designed to achieve market-opening largely through concessions in the agriculture sector as well as in automobile-related tariffs and on regulatory issues.  A second phase of negotiations would extend to services and other issues of mutual interest, such as insurance, pharmaceuticals and digital trade.

The decision to proceed with the bilateral agreement shields Japan from possible tariffs on autos and auto parts by the U.S. under a possible section 232 action so long as both sides are engaged in market-opening discussions.  The negotiations may provide a pathway that could lead to the lifting of section 232 tariffs already in place on Japan’s steel and aluminum exports, although this is unclear.

The two leaders made clear that the bilateral agreement they foresee will be more limited in scope than the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) from which President Trump withdrew the United States, and the other economic partnership agreements Japan has negotiated, including with the European Union.  An important element in Prime Minister Abe’s decision to agree to bilateral negotiations was a concession by the United States that Japan’s market-opening in agriculture would not have to exceed the tariff and non-tariff concessions Japan had already made in these previous agreements.

The negotiations can proceed after both sides complete their respective domestic consultation procedures.  For the United States, USTR Robert Lighthizer immediately began consultations with the relevant congressional committees, signaling that the negotiations themselves will proceed according to the President’s Trade Promotion Authority procedures and timelines.  Action by the White House to notify Congress of the intention to proceed with negotiations triggers the start of a 90-day consultation period to define negotiating objectives before bilateral discussions can officially begin (although the two sides can begin to exchange trade data and other documentation to prepare for negotiations).   The congressional consultations could identify additional issues and concerns that U.S. negotiators would need to take into account.  Also during this period, USTR typically calls for public comments from interested parties, and usually schedules public hearings to accept testimony and written views to help determine U.S. negotiating priorities.

Much attention in these negotiations is certain to focus on the auto sector.  The Trump-Abe statement specifically notes that an objective of the negotiations will be to “increase production and jobs in the United States in the motor vehicles industries.”  This perspective raises a number of questions:  Will the U.S. seek to restrain Japan’s motor vehicle exports?  Will the U.S.-Mexico Trade Agreement’s rules of origin offer a prototype for similar rules for vehicles and components imported from Japan?  Will Japan agree to accept fully the U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards?  Will the U.S.-Japan agreement advance possibilities for the two partners to be able to expand joint R&D efforts to take full advantage of innovation and strategic capabilities?  All these questions should be at the forefront of negotiators’ minds as they prepare to begin bilateral talks.

Other sectors that want to be part of an “early harvest” effort with Japan will also need to identify their priority interests and make these known to U.S. negotiators before U.S. objectives become set in stone.  Developing priorities for the U.S. pharmaceuticals sector and accelerating negotiating outcomes to the first phase offer a particular example:  What time period should industry seek for data exclusivity obligations for biopharmaceuticals?  What transparency and consultation procedures should be in place to cover marketing approval and government pricing and reimbursement determinations?   How should cross-border health data transfers be handled?

The USTR announced on August 3rd that it will review Turkey’s eligibility for the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program that grants duty-free access to the U.S. market. GSP is a U.S. trade program designed to promote economic growth in the developing world by providing preferential duty-free entry for up to 4,800 products from 129 designated beneficiary countries and territories. Concern over Turkey’s “compliance with the GSP market access criterion,” led the USTR to initiate the review. This also follows Turkey retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods in response to the Section 232 tariffs imposed by the U.S. in March. Earlier this year, Commerce submitted reports to President Trump stating U.S. importers’ reliance on foreign-made aluminum and steel posed a national security risk.

In 2017, the top categories of goods imported from Turkey under the program were vehicles and vehicle parts, jewelry and precious metals, and stone articles. The final decision on Turkey’s GSP status will be made after a public hearing and comment process.

Steel imports from Turkey have fallen significantly according to data from the U.S. International Trade Commission. Steel imports from Turkey were 1.3% of total U.S. steel imports from January to June of 2018 and dropped over 41% since June 2017. Following on the heels of the USTR’s announcement regarding Turkey’s GSP eligibility review, on August 10, 2018, President Trump threatened to double the Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Turkey, to 50 percent and 20 percent, respectively claiming that the existing tariffs have less of an impact due to Turkey’s currency, the lira, depreciating against the U.S. dollar.

The White House issued the following statement:

“[T]he President has authorized the preparation of documents to raise tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum from Turkey. Section 232 tariffs are imposed on imports from particular countries whose exports threaten to impair national security as defined in Section 232, independent of negotiations on trade or any other matter.”

For further information, please contact us.

 

On August 7, 2018, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) released a final list of approximately $16 billion worth of imports from China that will be subject to a 25 percent additional tariff. The list contains 279 of the original 284 tariff lines that were on a proposed list announced on June 15.

Update: the five tariff items that were excluded from the final List 2 are:

3913.10.00 Alginic acid, and its salts and esters, in primary forms
8465.96.00 Splitting, slicing or paring machines for working wood, cork, bone, hard rubber, hard
plastics or similar hard materials
8609.00.00 Containers (including containers for transport of fluids) specially designed and
equipped for carriage by one or more modes of transport
8905.90.10 Floating docks
9027.90.20 Microtomes

Changes to the proposed list were made after USTR and the interagency Section 301 Committee sought and received written comments and testimony during a two-day public hearing last month. Customs and Border Protection will begin to collect the additional duties on the Chinese imports on August 23.

A formal notice of the $16 billion tariff action will be published in the Federal Register. Please contact us if you have any questions or need assistance.

 

On July 10, 2018, U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer announced that at President Trump’s request, USTR has initiated the process of imposing an additional 10 percent ad valorem duty on approximately $200 billion worth of imports from China including apparel, textiles, chemicals, and agricultural & aquacultural goods.

The USTR statement includes a link to an advance copy of the Federal Register Notice with the list of proposed tariffs and the process for the public notice and comment period. The notice will be published in the Federal Register later this week.

This is the third round of additional tariffs proposed by the Trump administration as a result of its Section 301 investigation into China’s alleged unfair trade practices related to “the forced transfer of American technology and intellectual property.”

The notice indicated the USTR will maintain the first round of tariffs on $34 billion worth of goods implemented on July 6, and will continue with a second round of proposed tariffs on $16 billion worth of goods. This second list is currently under review in a public notice and comment process, with a public hearing scheduled for July 24, 2018.

The Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) subheadings of the products subject to the proposed tariffs is listed in the Annex (pages 11-205) to the notice.

The notice also included a list of key dates for a public notice, comment, and hearing process:

  • July 27, 2018: Due date for filing requests to appear and a summary of expected testimony at the public hearing, and for filing pre-hearing submissions.
  • August 17, 2018: Due date for submission of written comments.
  • August 20-23, 2018: The Section 301 Committee will convene a public hearing in the main hearing room of the U.S. International Trade Commission, 500 E Street SW, Washington, DC 20436 beginning at 9:30 am.
  • August 30, 2018: Due date for submission of post-hearing rebuttal comments.

 

 

Section 301 For covered products in List 1, please click here. 25% 7/6/2018
For covered products in List 2, please click here. TBD TBD
For covered products in List 3, please click here and see Annex 10% TBD
Status: List 1 totaling $34 billion worth of imports is composed of 818 tariff lines, and went into effect on 7/6/2018.

 

List 2 totaling $16 billion worth of imports is composed of 284 proposed tariff lines identified by the interagency Section 301 Committee. These are in a public review process.

 

List 3 includes a list of tariff lines of products from China with an annual trade value totaling approximately $200 billion. These are also subject to a public review process.

On April 30th, the President issued two proclamations extending country exemptions for certain U.S. allies on the steel and aluminum tariffs pursuant to Section 232(b) of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962.

The President extended temporary exemptions for Canada, Mexico, and the European Union, granted a permanent exemption on steel tariffs for South Korea, and is considering permanent exemptions for Australia, Argentina, and Brazil. Trump’s administration unveiled its decision to extend the country exemptions just prior to the May 1st deadline, leaving the countries unaware whether the tariffs would go into effect by midnight.

In addition, the proclamation creates new limitations by eliminating the ability of manufacturers to receive a refund on steel/aluminum duties when exporting from the United States. Specifically, the new proclamation eliminates drawback claims on steel and aluminum. The elimination of drawback claims follows the elimination of foreign trade zone benefits for steel/aluminum imports in the earlier revisions to the steel/aluminum proclamations.

The United States temporarily extended the country exemptions for Canada, Mexico, and the European Union until June 1st, 2018. Trump originally stated that a successful NAFTA renegotiation between the three countries would result in a permanent exemption for Canada and Mexico. However, Canada and Mexico said that there is no connection between the NAFTA renegotiations and the Section 232 tariffs.

The United States determined to permanently exempt South Korea after the two countries concluded discussions to reduce steel overcapacity. South Korea agreed to limit its exports of steel products to 70 percent of its current volume, or 2.86 million tons of steel, to the U.S. each year. However, South Korea is no longer exempted from the aluminum tariffs as of May 1, 2018.

The proclamations also indefinitely extended temporary exemptions for Australia, Argentina, and Brazil. Although the agreements with Australia, Argentina, and Brazil will be finalized shortly, the President threatened to re-impose the tariffs if the deals are not finalized quickly. “Because the United States has agreed in principle with these countries, in my judgment, it is unnecessary to set an expiration date for the exemptions. Nevertheless, if the satisfactory alternative means are not finalized shortly, I will consider re-imposing the tariff,” the President said in the steel and aluminum presidential proclamations.

What’s Next?

China, India, and Turkey have requested WTO consultations with the United States over the Section 232 tariffs on imported steel and aluminum products. If the European Union does not receive a permanent exemption, then it is also likely that the EU will request WTO consultations with the U.S.

Countries argue that the tariffs violate the WTO’s Agreement on Safeguards and Article XXI’s National Security Exception pursuant to the 1994 GATT Agreement. If the U.S. successfully sets a precedent of Article XXI for national security reasons, then other members of the WTO could invoke the never-before-used Article to apply tariffs or sanctions as retaliation against U.S. exports.

On April 19, Crowell & Moring’s International Trade Attorneys hosted a webinar on “Trade in 2018 – What’s Ahead?”

Please click here to register and view the webinar on demand.

Summary

From the Section 232 national security tariffs on steel and aluminum imports to the ongoing NAFTA re-negotiation, the Trump administration is seeking to implement significant changes in international trade policy and enforcement. Economic sanctions on Russia continue to expand, the future is far from clear regarding Iran, and perhaps North Korea is coming into focus. A new Asia trade agreement without the United States, and a bumpy road ahead for Brexit all make for uncertainty and the need for enhanced trade risk management. Join us as we identify the international trade risks and opportunities likely to continue and grow in 2018.

Our Crowell & Moring team discussed predictions for the remainder of the year, with cross-border insights from our practitioners in the U.S., London, and Brussels. Topics included likely trends and issues in the U.S. and EU including:

  • Trade policy developments: Section 232, NAFTA renegotiation, and trade remedies
  • Sanctions in Year Two of the Trump Administration: Russia, Iran, North Korea, and beyond
  • Anti-money laundering (AML) and beneficial ownership
  • Supply chain risk management: blockchain, forced labor, the U.K. Modern Slavery Act, and GDPR
  • Europe: Brexit, the EU’s 4th AML Directive, and the EU/U.K. AML enforcement
  • CFIUS: how significant is the new legislation?
  • Export controls: Wither reform?
  • Import and customs

On March 1, President Trump abruptly announced his decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports pursuant to Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. The day started with conflicting news reports as to whether the president would announce his decision to impose tariffs, followed by the spontaneous announcement by President Trump during a White House meeting with key U.S. steel and aluminum executives.

According to those in attendance, the president announced that the U.S. will impose a 25 percent tariff on all imported steel and a 10 percent tariff on all imported aluminum for an “unlimited period” of time. The president did not specify any country exemptions, nor did he discuss the process to exclude products from the scope.

Click here to continue reading the full version of this alert.

 

President Trump announced plans to approve tariffs on both steel and aluminum products pursuant to Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. According to his meeting earlier today with top steel and aluminum executives, the U.S. will impose a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum for a “long period” amount of time. 

The President has yet to specify any country exemptions, nor did he discuss the process to exclude certain products from the scope. The official announcement is expected to be formally signed and released next week.

 

On February 16, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross released the findings of the Department of Commerce (Commerce) investigations on the effects of steel and aluminum imports on U.S. national security pursuant to Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962.

Commerce concluded the present quantities of steel imports are “weakening [the U.S.] internal economy” and threaten to impact the national security of the United States. The same was said of aluminum imports, with the report noting that “recent import trends have left the U.S. almost totally reliant on foreign producers of primary aluminum … that is essential for key military and commercial systems.”

Steel Remedies

In terms of specific remedies, Commerce recommends the President adjust the level of steel imports through quotas and/or tariffs imposed on a broad range of all major categories of steel currently produced in the United States. The relief is intended to ensure that U.S. domestic steel producers maintain a capacity utilization rate of 80 percent or better. The report does not mention the duration of any proposed remedies.

Commerce presented two recommendations:

  • A global quota of 63 percent or global tariff of 24 percent on imports from all countries.
    • Commerce proposes that under this option the President could exempt specific countries by granting them a quota of 100 percent of their 2017 import volumes. Such exemption would be based on an overriding U.S. economic or security interest.
  • A higher overall tariff of 53 percent, but only on a subset of countries (Brazil, South Korea, Russia, Turkey, India, Vietnam, China, Thailand, South Africa, Egypt, Malaysia, and Costa Rica

Under either alternative, quotas and/or tariffs would be imposed on imports of all steel products that fall into one of the following five broad product categories:

Carbon and alloy flat products produced by rolling semi-finished steel through varying sets of rolls, including sheets, strips, and plates;
Carbon and alloy long products that fall outside the flat products category, including bars, rails, rods, and beams;
Carbon and alloy pipe and tube products either seamless or welded pipes and tubes, some of which may include stainless and alloys other than stainless;
Carbon and alloy semi-finished products consisting of initial, intermediate solid forms of molten steel, to be re-heated and further forged, rolled, shaped, or otherwise worked into finished steel products, including blooms, billets, slabs, ingots, and steel for castings; and
Stainless steel products in flat-rolled, long, pipe and tube, and semi-finished forms, containing at minimum 10.5 percent chromium and, by weight, 1.2 percent or less of carbon, offering better corrosion resistance than other steel.

Steel Exclusions

The Secretary also proposes a separate exclusion process through which affected U.S. parties may seek exclusions from the quota or tariff for specific products based on the following: (1) lack of sufficient U.S. production capacity of comparable products; or (2) specific national security-based considerations. Commerce will lead the exclusion appeal process, providing for public comment on exclusion requests and decisions within 90 days of the requests’ filing. Commerce will also consider whether the quota or tariff for remaining products must be adjusted to ensure the domestic industry achieves projected production levels.

Aluminum Remedies

The Secretary determined it necessary to reduce imports to a level that will allow the domestic industry to restart idled capacity of primary aluminum in order to remove the threat of impairment. The Secretary recommends the President impose quotas and/or tariffs on a wide range of aluminum products to ensure that U.S. aluminum producers operate profitably and maintain an average capacity utilization rate of 80 percent. The remedies’ duration is fairly open-ended, as the Secretary recommends that the action taken remain in effect long enough to “stabilize the U.S. industry” by building cash flow to reduce debt and raising capital for plant modernization. (The report mentions that it can take up to nine months to restart idled smelting capacity.)

Commerce presented two recommendations:

  • A global quota of 86.7 percent or global tariff of 7.7 percent on imports from all countries.
  • A higher overall tariff of 23.6 percent, but only on a subset of countries (China, Hong Kong, Russia, Venezuela, and Vietnam).

Under either alternative, quotas and/or tariffs would be imposed on imports of:

Unwrought aluminum (HTS code 7601)
Aluminum castings and forgings (HTS codes 7616.99.5160 and 7616.99.5170)
Aluminum plate, sheet, strip, and foil (HTS codes 7606 and 7607)
Aluminum wire (HTS code 7605)
Aluminum bars, rods and profiles (HTS code 7604)
Aluminum tubes and prices (HTS code 7608)
Aluminum tube and pipe fittings (HTS code 7609)

Aluminum Exemptions/Exclusions

Importantly, Commerce further proposes that under either alternative the President could exempt specific countries either entirely or by granting them a quota of 100 percent of their 2017 import volumes. Such exemption would be based on an overriding U.S. economic or security interest, including the exempted countries’ willingness to help address “global excess capacity and other challenges facing the U.S. aluminum industry.” (Any exemption would require a corresponding adjustment to the final quota or tariff imposed on the other countries.)

The Secretary also proposes a separate exclusion process through which affected U.S. parties may seek exclusions from the quota or tariff for specific products based on the following: (1) lack of sufficient U.S. production capacity of comparable products; or (2) specific national security-based considerations. Commerce will lead the exclusion appeal process, providing for public comment on exclusion requests and decisions within 90 days of the requests’ filing. Commerce will also consider whether the quota or tariff for remaining products must be adjusted to ensure the domestic industry achieves projected production levels.

Deadline for President Trump

President Trump has until April 11, 2018 to determine whether he agrees with the Secretary’s recommendations on steel, and until April 20, 2018 on aluminum.