American businesses are scrambling to get around Trump's new tariffs -- and it could just be the start of a 'tsunami'

  • The Commerce Department has received more than 1,200 requests from businesses to be excluded from President Donald Trump’s steel and aluminium tariffs.
  • Companies can ask for exclusions if they cannot find the metal needed to produce their product in the US.
  • The requests are likely the first in a deluge from businesses.

US businesses are flooding the Trump administration with requests to get around new tariffs on steel and aluminium.

The Washington Post’s Heather Long reported that more than 1,200 companies have asked the Commerce Department for an exemption from 25% tariff on steel, while there were 125 requests for exemptions from the 10% tariff on aluminium. Both tariffs were announced by Trump on March 1, and the Commerce Department opened a public comment process to let businesses request exemptions on March 19.

Businesses can request tariff exclusions if they can provide a compelling case that the type of steel or aluminium they need to make a product is “not produced in the United States in a sufficient and reasonably available amount or of a satisfactory quality.”

Or, if a business can show the particular metal they need to make their product – whether a high-end consumer electronic or a beer can – is not produced in a high enough quantity in the US, the business could receive an exemption.

Kevin Dempsey, general counsel at the American Iron and Steel Institute, told The Washington Post that the requests submitted so far are just part of a “tsunami” of businesses that will likely seek a reprieve.

The flood of possible exemptions would also be another way for the Trump administration to ease the possible economic downside of the tariffs. The Commerce Department has already announced that several major trading partners, like Canada and Mexico, will be exempt from the tariffs for now, limiting the punitive economic effects. Right now, those exclusions run through May 1.

It remains unclear how many of the company exclusions will be approved.

After the applications are processed by the Commerce Department, the requests are posted for public comment to allow metal manufacturers in the US request that the exemptions be denied. Then the Commerce Department will make case-by-case determinations before final announcements.

As of Tuesday, 94 steel and aluminium exclusion requests are available for public comment on the federal government’s page.

The Commerce Department did not respond to a request for comment.

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