Late Wednesday night, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced targeted relief from the voluntary quotas the United States successfully negotiated with South Korea, Argentina and Brazil on steel, and with Argentina on aluminum. U.S. companies may now apply for product exclusions seeking steel or aluminum from these countries based on insufficient quantity or quality available from U.S. steel or aluminum producers. In such cases, the Department of Commerce has stated that an exclusion from the negotiated quota limits “may be granted and no tariff would be owed.” Previously, the product exclusion request processes were limited to steel and aluminum from countries that were fully subject to the Section 232 steel and aluminum tariffs of 25 percent and 10 percent, respectively, and did not allow for the submission of product exclusion requests for steel and aluminum products subject to the Section 232 tariffs from countries with negotiated quotas, which allowed imported products within the quotas to be exempt from those tariffs.

President Donald Trump’s amended Section 232 steel proclamation states: “I have been informed that the quantitative limitations set forth in Proclamation 9740 and Proclamation 9759 have in some cases already filled for this year, and that projects in the United States employing thousands of workers may be significantly disrupted or delayed because imports of specific [steel/aluminum] articles, which were contracted for purchase prior to my decision to adjust imports of these articles, cannot presently be entered into the United States because the quantitative limits have already been reached. In light of these circumstances, and after considering the impact on the economy and the national security objectives of section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, as amended, I have determined to direct the Secretary to provide relief from the quantitative limitations set forth in Proclamation 9740 and Proclamation 9759 in limited circumstances.”

The proclamation further directs Commerce to grant relief on an expedited basis from the quantitative limitations for any steel articles where: “(i) the party requesting relief entered into a written contract for production and shipment of such steel article before March 8, 2018; (ii) such contract specifies the quantity of such steel article that is to be produced and shipped to the United States consistent with a schedule contained in such contract; (iii) such steel article is to be used to construct a facility in the United States and such steel article cannot be procured from a supplier in the United States to meet the delivery schedule and specifications contained in such contract; (iv) the payments made pursuant to such contract constitute 10 percent or less of the cost of the facility under construction; and (v) lack of relief from the quantitative limitations on such steel article would significantly disrupt or delay completion of the facility being constructed in the United States with the steel article specified in such contract.” Such relief, however, will be granted only upon receipt of a sworn statement signed by the CEO and the chief legal officer of the U.S. party requesting relief. According to Commerce, in these limited instances where steel articles are being used in a facility construction project that were contracted for purchase before the implementation of the Section 232 tariffs, “an exclusion from the quota may be granted, but the product may only be imported upon payment of the 25% tariff.”

President Trump’s amended Section 232 aluminum proclamation states: “I have determined to authorize the Secretary to provide relief from quantitative limitations on aluminum articles adopted pursuant to section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, as amended, including those set forth in Proclamation 9758 of May 31, 2018 (Adjusting Imports of Aluminum Into the United States), on the same basis as the Secretary is currently authorized to provide relief from the duty established in clause 2 of Proclamation 9704 … Such relief shall be provided for an aluminum article only after a request for relief is made by a directly affected party located in the United States. Such relief may be provided to directly affected parties on a party‑by‑party basis taking into account the regional availability of particular articles, the ability to transport articles within the United States, and any other factors as the Secretary deems appropriate.”