New tariffs on steel and aluminum in the U.S.: exclusions possible for Swiss SMEs

As of March 23, 2018, new import tariffs of 25% on certain steel products and 10% on certain aluminum products will apply in the U.S. The U.S. announced this in early March. As the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs SECO now writes on the website, companies with U.S. branches can apply for an exemption. At the same time, the federal council is also trying to obtain exemption from customs duties. 

Import tariffs on certain steel and aluminum products will enter into force on March 23.
Import tariffs on certain steel and aluminum products will enter into force on March 23.

The new tariffs introduced by the U.S. for national security purposes basically affect various steel and aluminum products. Nevertheless, the White House has commissioned the U.S. Department of Commerce to develop a procedure for exemptions. Exclusions must be requested using a form. The form and deadlines are available at: U.S. Department of Commerce Announces Steel and Aluminum Tariff Exclusion Process  

Further action for Swiss companies

In 2017, Swiss exports of the steel and aluminium products concerned to the US amounted to around CHF 80 million. Swiss companies that want to apply for an exclusion from tariffs must observe the following, according to the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs SECO:

  • Exclusion requests must be submitted by subsidiaries, representatives in the U.S. or U.S. clients.
  • The request will be examined to determine whether a product is produced in satisfactory quality and in sufficient quantities in the U.S.
  • The docket number for steel product requests is: BIS-2018-0006
  • The docket number for aluminum product requests is: BIS-2018-0002
  • The requests can be submitted electronically in PDF format:
  • The documents may not include more than 25 pages including all annexes

Based on the documents submitted and national security considerations, the U.S. Department of Commerce will usually decide on the request received within 90 days. The decisions are published online:
Exclusions granted by the U.S. come into effect five business days after publication. They are generally valid for one year.

It is important for Swiss companies to know that approved requests can only be approved for one product. That is, the exclusions are limited to the company or organization making the request. The exclusions do not apply to all clients or representatives horizontally.

For information, companies can contact the American authorities directly.

Steel products:
Telephone: +1 202 282 56 42

Aluminum products:
Telephone: +1 202 482 47 57

Overview of affected products

The proclamation on the levy of tariffs is available online. In each case under point (1) reference is made to the product categories affected: 

The steel products affected are listed in Chapters 72, 73 and 76 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule:

  • 7206.10 to 7216.50 
  • 7216.99 to 7301.10
  • 7302.10
  • 7302.40 to 7302.90
  • 7304.10 to 7306.90

For aluminum, the following products are affected by the tariffs:

  • (a) unwrought aluminum (HTS 7601)
  • (b) aluminum bars, rods, and profiles (HTS 7604)
  • (c) aluminum wire (HTS 7605)
  • (d) aluminum plate, sheet, strip, and foil (flat rolled products) (HTS 7606 and 7607)
  • (e) aluminum tubes and pipes and tube and pipe fitting (HTS 7608 and 7609)
  • (f) aluminum castings and forgings (HTS 7616.99.51.60 and 7616.99.51.70)

The country of origin determines whether steel and aluminum products are affected by customs duties, not the exporting country.

Extension of punitive tariffs to steel and aluminium

As the White House announced on 24th January the USA has extended the existing punitive tariffs to products that are two-thirds steel and aluminium. The new punitive tariffs will apply from 8 February. Further details can be found on the White House website.

In addition, changes to the punitive tariffs will come into force from 18 March 2020. For example, the punitive tariffs on aircraft will be increased from 10 to 15 percent. The list of products concerned has also changed: More information can be found here.

The Swiss Confederation supports customs exemptions

Like other countries, Switzerland submitted a written request to US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on 19 March for a country-specific exemption from the trade defense measures concerning Switzerland. At a meeting with US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross on April 20 in Washington, Swiss Federal Councilor Schneider-Ammann presented his American counterpart with a second letter for the attention of Robert Lighthizer, in which the arguments for an exemption provision in favor of Switzerland were set out and explained.

The US has not responded to Switzerland’s request for an exemption from the tariffs to date (July 10). In order to protect Switzerland’s interests, Federal Councillor Schneider-Ammann has taken the decision to initiate WTO dispute settlement proceedings. Other WTO members affected by the tariffs, including Canada, the EU, Mexico, and Norway, have also requested consultations with the US.

Switzerland, together with other WTO members, already brought proceedings against the US in the steel sector in 2002. The US subsequently lifted the trade measure in question.

WTO dispute settlement proceedings begin with consultations. During this first stage of the procedure the parties seek to resolve their differences amicably. If these consultations fail to produce a satisfactory solution, a panel of arbiters may be established. Panel rulings of may be appealed before the WTO’s Appellate Body.

S-GE support

Do you have any questions about the new tariffs on steel and aluminum products in the U.S.? Contact Annina Bosshard, Consultant for North America at S-GE, or take part in a non-binding individual country consultation. Additional information


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