Hill Awards Golden Fleece Award to the Department of Commerce for Mishandling Tariff Exclusion Requests
Little Rock, Ark, October 16, 2020
Rep. French Hill (AR-02) named the Department of Commerce as the latest recipient of the Golden Fleece Award for not giving American businesses a meaningful opportunity to appeal burdensome tariffs. According to a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, the Department of Commerce rejected 19,000 exclusion requests due to submission errors. Commerce officials have not clarified what caused these submission errors, which has impacted thousands of businesses in the U.S. In addition, according to the report, Commerce has not met timeliness guidelines for 96% of exclusion requests with objections.
“By failing to provide adequate measures for businesses seeking to avoid Section 232 tariffs, the Department of Commerce has failed to assist these companies and has consequently hurt the American economy,” said Rep. Hill. “Commerce officials must be more transparent in the information they require for exclusion requests, and they must also respond to business exclusion requests in a more timely manner to ensure that future transactions are fair to all businesses who submit these requests.”
The Honorable Wilbur Ross
U.S. Department of Commerce
1401 Constitution Ave NW
Washington, DC 20230-0001
I write today to inform you that your agency is the most recent recipient of my Golden Fleece Award. I am awarding the Golden Fleece to the U.S. Department of Commerce (Commerce) for having a deficient exclusion request process for businesses requesting to be excluded from having to pay Section 232 steel and aluminum tariffs (Section 232 tariffs).
According to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), of the 106,000 Section 232 tariff exclusion requests received, Commerce “rejected over 19,000 of them prior to decision due to incorrect or incomplete information. Although rejections may delay relief for requesters and can increase work for Commerce, the agency has not identified, analyzed, or taken steps to fully address the causes of these submission errors."
Further, “Commerce did not meet timeliness guidelines for approximately 79 percent of steel and 72 percent of aluminum requests,” and “[n]inety-six percent of exclusion requests with objections did not meet timeliness guidelines compared with 75 percent of exclusion requests without objections."
In addition to the deficiencies in the exclusion requests process, the GAO was “unable to determine whether Commerce conducted any regular reviews of the tariffs' impacts, and agency officials were unable to produce documentation containing the results of any reviews."
It is unacceptable that Commerce did not have adequate measures to ensure companies that were negatively impacted by the Section 232 tariffs received timely or consistent decisions for their exclusion requests. Further, Commerce's lack of adequate reporting on the economic impact of these tariffs is concerning. This inadequacy demonstrates how the administration's economic decisions impact American companies, including those in Arkansas, without fully understanding the potential negative or even positive impacts those policies may have on the American economy. I encourage Commerce to implement GAO's recommendations and ensure that future tariff exclusion processes are fair and transparent.
Should you require any additional authority from Congress to address these concerns, I urge you to notify us as soon as possible. I thank you for your consideration and look forward to working with you to address this important issue.