When Donald Trump imposed a 25 percent tariff on steel and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports back in March, he thoughtfully included a process by which importers in the US could apply for exclusions. Say, for instance, you’re a US manufacturer and some Taiwanese company makes a component you can’t get anywhere in the US for you to manufacture your thing: You can apply to the Commerce Department to have the tariff waived on that component.
There is a website called regulations.gov where you can go to make your Exclusion Request. If you go there and type “steel tariff” in the search box, you will see that the site has been quite busy:
When I visited, the first of the 22,820 results from this search was a request for a waiver by a company called Millenia Stainless of Santa Fe Springs, CA. If you click on the name, you can look at Millenia’s application. Apparently the company needs to import:
“Flat-rolled products of stainless steel, of a width of 600mm or more; of a thickness between 0.3mm to 3.0mm; with Nickel content between 0% to 14%; Chromium content between 10.5% and 20.0%”
… from Chain Chon Metals Corp of Taoyuan, Taiwan. Why? Well, according to the drop-down answer in box 2b of the form, “No US Production.” In other words, they have to import these doodads from Chain Chon Metals because nobody in the US makes them. There’s quite a few boxes to fill in on this form.
At the bottom, there is some disclosure mandated by the “Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995.” In order to reduce paperwork, they put more words at the bottom of the page on this form telling you how long it takes to gather the necessary info (e.g. how much bismuth is in your steel component, percentagewise?) and put it in the form. It says that “the public reporting burden for this collection of information is estimated to average 4 hours per response.”
There’s no word on how long it takes the Commerce Department to review your request, or to give you a decision, nor can we specifically determine whether or not the agency is required to provide a response. But according to a report in the Financial Times, as of last Friday “…more than 16,000 requests for exemptions on the steel tariff had been posted… The commerce department’s Bureau of Industry and Security had granted 516 and denied 417.”
Trump may not be single-handedly bringing American manufacturing back to the glory days of the postwar period, but the flood of paperwork required to deal with these tariffs alone seems certain to create quite a significant number of office jobs.
Remember, the tariff has been in place since March. So I guess the other 15,067 applications have either agreed to pay stiff fees in order to keep doing business, or are waiting for a reply before they can get on with the manufacturing they haven’t been able to do since March. MAGA!
Faced with all this bureaucracy, pseudo-billionaire Wilbur Ross, the renowned liar, businessman and investor who is now in charge of the Commerce Department, asked Congress for more funds to deal with the flood of Exclusion Requests, though god knows with the way this administration spends money it could just as easily have wound up paying for hookers and blow, or… or chartered plane flights, or hand lotion.
But you know how the GOP hates bureaucracy. So Congress said no.