On February 15, 2019, President Trump signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019 (Act) that fully funds the government for the remainder of the fiscal year ending on September 30, 2019. With Congress and the president agreeing on these appropriations, a second partial government shutdown was averted. Included in the Act is a provision authorizing additional funding for the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) to support the Section 232 steel and aluminum product exclusion request process. $4.55 million in funding has been designated through September 30, 2019 for contractor support for the review and processing of the overwhelming number of product exclusion requests that have been filed in these investigations. Further, in the explanatory statement accompanying the Act, BIS will now be required to provide quarterly reports to relevant congressional committees providing updates on the implementation of the exclusion process. These reports must include:
- the number of exclusion requests received;
- the number of exclusion requests approved and denied;
- the status of efforts to assist small- and medium-sized businesses in navigating the exclusion process;
- department-wide staffing levels for the exclusion process, including information on any staff detailed to complete this task; and
- department-wide funding by source appropriation and object class for costs undertaken to process the exclusions.
While the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) received no additional funding in the Act for its review and processing of the Section 301 China-related tariff exclusion request process, the explanatory statement requires USTR to initiate an exclusion request process for the third round of tariffs implemented on September 24, 2018 involving $200 billion in Chinese products imported into the United States (see Trump and Trade Update of September 19, 2018). In stating that “[i]t is concerning that there is no exclusion process for goods subject to tariffs in round 3 of the Section 301 proceedings, as was done in the first two rounds,” Congress notified USTR to “establish an exclusion process” for these tariffs within 30 days of enactment of this Act (i.e., by March 17, 2019). Congress instructed USTR to follow the same procedures established for the exclusion request process of the prior two lists of China tariffs. USTR is also required to consult with relevant congressional committees concerning the nature and timing of this exclusion process and the status of the process.