WASHINGTON — Two of America’s biggest steel manufacturers — both with deep ties to administration officials — have successfully objected to hundreds of requests by U.S. companies that buy foreign steel to exempt themselves from President Donald Trump’s stiff metal tariffs. They have argued that the imported products are readily available from U.S. steel manufacturers.
Charlotte, North Carolina-based Nucor, which financed a documentary film made by a top trade adviser to Trump, and Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel, which has previously employed several top administration officials, have objected to 1,600 exemption requests filed with the Commerce Department over the past several months.
To date, their efforts have never failed, resulting in denials for companies that are based in the United States but rely on imported pipes, screws, wire and other foreign steel products for their supply chains.
Trump’s decision to impose 25 percent tariffs on steel and 10 percent on aluminum is just one part of that battle. But it has drawn a strong rebuke from foreign governments, Republican lawmakers and many business groups.
To help minimize the impact, the administration established a process for companies to request “exclusions” for any product they could not otherwise buy in the United States, such as tire rods or razor blades. But the Commerce Department, which is overseeing the process, also allowed U.S. companies to argue against an exclusion request.
Since May, companies have filed more than 20,000 requests for steel tariff exemptions. As of the end of July, the Commerce Department had denied 639 requests.
Half of those denials came in cases where U.S. Steel, Nucor or a third large steel-maker, AK Steel Holding Corp., filed an objection, a New York Times analysis shows. Nearly all of the rest were in cases where the company applying for an exclusion erred in its submission, Commerce Department officials say.
Department officials said Friday that they have not granted a single steel exclusion request that drew an objection. They have granted 20 aluminum exclusions over an objection.
Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, has defended the exclusion process and said the steel-makers’ ability to provide products should be taken into account.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
Jim Tankersley © 2018 The New York Times