WASHINGTON - The Commerce Department said Wednesday it has exempted some steel products from Japan and four other countries from the U.S. global tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports.
The exemption applies to seven U.S.-based companies importing steel products from Japan, Sweden, Belgium, Germany and China, the department said.
It was the first time that the United States has taken such action on a product basis since President Donald Trump invoked global tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum in March, citing the need to defend “national security.”
The action covers 42 “exclusion requests” from the seven companies, including razor maker Schick Manufacturing Inc. of Connecticut, cutting tool maker Nachi America Inc. of Indiana and specialty steel supplier Hankev International Inc. of California.
But it was not known for which products manufacturers from the five countries have won the exemptions.
The decision came after a process to determine whether the domestic industry can provide those products of a satisfactory quality and in sufficient quantity, as well as whether it is in the U.S. national security interest to grant an exemption for a specific product, according to the department.
“This first set of exclusions confirm what we have said from the beginning — that we are taking a balanced approach that accounts for the needs of downstream industries while also recognizing the threatened impairment of our national security caused by imports,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement.
The Trump administration initially exempted Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, the European Union, Mexico and South Korea from the import duties, but drew criticism for imposing the tariffs on Canada, the European Union and Mexico on June 1.
The tariffs were apparently targeting China as the administration continued to push the emerging powerhouse to reduce its excess capacity — and exports — in these metals, a situation that Trump claims undermines American industry and jobs.