5 Sept 2018
Senator Requests Investigation of Political Influences in Section 232 Product Exclusions
On 29 August, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Democrat-Massachusetts) sent a letter to the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Commerce asking for an internal review of the process for granting exclusions from the Section 232 duties on steel and aluminium imports. She noted that certain products associated with RUSAL (a Russian company subject to U.S. sanctions) were granted exclusions while many U.S. petitioners have seen their requests denied. The RUSAL product exclusions were subsequently rescinded after objections were raised. Sen. Warren also noted actions taken in apparent response to influence from Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney.
In principle, U.S. government inspectors general can begin investigations without any outside request and for any non-partisan reason. Sen. Warren is encouraging the DOC to examine, among other things, “the steps that Commerce officials are taking to ensure that tariff exemptions meet their goal of protecting national security ‘while also minimizing undue impact on downstream American industries.’” It will be interesting to see whether any actions are taken in response to Sen. Warren’s letter.