McCaskill Sounds Alarm on Lack of Transparency for Missouri Companies Applying for Tariff Exclusions

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, the top-ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, recently questioned the Administration’s management of the tariff exclusion process, citing concerns from Missouri companies that they received insufficient guidance when applying for exclusions from steel and aluminum tariffs.

“Missouri businesses just want to understand the rules of the road when it comes to getting relief from this trade war that’s harming their businesses—but I’m hearing from them over and over that they’re frustrated with the process,” McCaskill said. “Our manufacturers can outcompete anyone, but right now they’re just not getting the level playing field they need to do it.”

Currently, if Customs and Border Protection (CBP) cannot validate a company’s request for a tariff exclusion based on the information contained in the company’s application, the request is denied without contacting the company to clarify the product details or assisting the requester to correct an identified error in the application. The Administration reports that they’ve rejected nearly 30 percent of tariff exclusion requests for errors in the application, but Missouri companies have said that they’ve received no meaningful feedback on what those errors were or how to correct them.

In her letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, McCaskill wrote, “[The Department of Commerce] and [Customs and Border Protection] have failed to provide adequate guidance at the beginning of the process and failed to provide meaningful feedback and assistance to companies seeking exclusions from the steel and aluminum tariffs under Section 232 of the Trade Act of 1964. … I respectfully request that Commerce and Customs and Border Protection work together to find a way to provide additional information and direct assistance to requesters who have been denied an exclusion request as a result of an error in their product description or [Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States] code.”

McCaskill has been a strong advocate on behalf of Missouri businesses and workers in the face of the ongoing trade war. Last month, McCaskill sent a letter to the Secretary of Commerce to relay the concerns of Missouri manufacturing and agriculture leaders raised during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee roundtable that she chaired in St. Louis. She also voiced concern with the latest $200 billion in tariffs and highlighted the negative impact of potential automobile tariffs on Missouri workers at a Senate hearing.

In June, McCaskill toured Mid Continent Nail Corporation, the largest U.S. producer of steel nails, which was forced to reduce its workforce by more than 30 percent and may be forced to close its Poplar Bluff operations while it waits for the Department of Commerce to decide on a tariff exclusion request because of soaring costs and canceled sales resulting from the tariffs that the Administration placed on the wire that the company uses to produce nails. She has called on the Administration to end the trade war, and is working across the aisle to bring greater Congressional oversight to tariff decisions and the tariff exclusion process.

Read McCaskill’s letter to Commerce Secretary Ross and Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen HERE.