On March 5, 2020, Secretary Wilbur Ross testified before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee to discuss President Donald Trump’s fiscal year (FY) 2021 budget request for the Department of Commerce. In laying out the funding requests for each agency within the department, Ross requested $137.7 million for the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) in order to continue “efforts to curtail illegal exports while facilitating secure trade of sensitive technologies in coordination with U.S. allies and close partners.” He also stated that the FY 2021 budget would continue to fund BIS activities “necessary for the timely review of exclusion requests from Section 232 trade actions.”

In response to questions from Chairman Jerry Moran, R-Kan., Ross stated that BIS had addressed the key concerns raised by a recent Department of Commerce inspector general’s report (see Trump and Trade Update of October 31, 2019). He provided an update on the status of the Section 232 steel/aluminum product exclusion request process. According to Ross, 171,742 exclusion requests have been filed, with 138,243 posted for review and comment, and 31,381 objections have been filed. Overall, 112,819 exclusion requests have been processed. From this total, 87,808 requests have been granted, 25,011 have been denied, and 31,553 have been returned to the submitter as incomplete or incorrect. BIS has 27,322 exclusion requests that remain active and under review.

With the move in 2019 to a new portal for filing Section 232 product exclusion requests and objections, Ross noted that the process has become more streamlined. He indicated there has been a 79 percent decrease in the time it takes to post a new request on the portal, with new requests posted, on average, within three days. For exclusion requests that receive no objections, Ross stated that the average time for a decision is 59 days. For requests with objections, he noted that such filings take more time to determine due to the objection and reply process. He emphasized that this Section 232 process will help guarantee that “the U.S. steel and aluminum industries are given a level playing field to offset global overproduction to ensure our domestic industry can produce materials that are critical for U.S. national security.”

Ross’s written testimony is available on the Appropriations Committee’s website. You can also view a recording of Ross’s testimony; the portion of his testimony on the Section 232 process begins approximately at the 32-minute, 30-second mark.