Commerce Department nears launch of new online portal for steel, aluminum tariff exclusion requests

27 November 2018 9:03pm

23 November 2018. By Kat Lucero.

The US Department of Commerce said it has developed a new online portal for businesses that will allow them to request an exclusion from tariffs on steel and aluminum imports and is seeking users to test the system.

“The new portal will streamline the exclusion process for external parties, including importers and domestic manufacturers, by replacing the data collection point with web-based forms, which will enhance data integrity and quality controls,” according to a Federal Register notice made available online Friday that will be published officially on Nov. 26.

Commerce plans to transition from using the federal rulemaking portal to using the new portal “sometime in late 2018 to early 2019, once testing is completed and any final updates are made,” the agency notice said.

The notice said the agency seeks users to help conduct public testing of the new portal, scheduled for Dec. 6 and 7 at Commerce's main building in Washington, DC.

Lawmakers and businesses have complained about the existing online process Commerce set up to seek exclusion from the 25 percent steel and 10 percent aluminum import tariffs on products the Trump administration imposed on national security grounds in March under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962.

That process, on www.regulations.gov, allows submission of exclusion requests and of objections to exclusion requests. Commerce also publishes its replies on the same website, to which people can post rebuttals and surrebuttals.

The new portal is designed to allow users to view documents and track submission deadlines in one web-based system, as well as to allow government agencies administering the exclusion requests, such as the Bureau of Industry and Security, to collaborate with each other.

The announcement about the new portal also comes as the business community continues to press the Trump administration to exempt Mexico and Canada from the tariffs before the three countries' presidents sign the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement, scheduled for the end of November.