By Alex Russ, AEM Director of International and Regulatory Affairs

On June 20, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross testified in front of the Senate Finance Committee to provide answers on the Trump administration’s recently proposed, and now partially implemented, tariffs. The hearing illuminated the administration’s bad trade policies and ongoing struggles to implement a product exclusion program for companies impacted by the steel and aluminum tariffs.

During the hearing, Sec. Ross stated that the U.S. Department of Commerce has only been able to process 98 of the more than 20,000 requests for product-specific exclusions from Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs, or less than half a percent of those that have been submitted. Ross said, of the 98 requests that have been processed, 42 were approved.

You can watch the full video of the testimony below. However, we pulled out the highlights, as senators from both parties highlighted the real economic damage being caused by the Sec 232 steel and aluminum tariffs, as well as the subsequent counter-tariffs placed on U.S. products and agricultural commodities...

Testimony Highlights

  • Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah): “The U.S. Department of Defense has stated that it is concerned about the negative impact on our key allies of the steel and aluminum actions recommended by the Department of Commerce, particularly global tariffs and the use of quotas. The lessons of the steel and aluminum tariffs are clear: these tariffs do not support U.S. national security. Instead, they harm American manufacturers, damage our economy, hurt American consumers, and disrupt our relationship with our long-time allies, while giving China a free pass.”
  • Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Oregon): “I’ve heard from potato farmers in my home state of Oregon who export nearly a third of what they grow and will now face tariffs in key markets like Mexico. I’ve heard from Pacific Northwest cherry growers who’ve got nearly 1.5 million boxes of cherries ready to ship to China. They’re worried those cherries are going to end up stuck on the dock or rotting in a warehouse due to China’s retaliation. Small brewers find their costs skyrocketing when they need new can lines and holding tanks, which are largely made from steel and aluminum.
  • Senator John Thune (R-SD): Corn, wheat, beef, and pork are all suffering market price declines, as well due to current trade policies – and I’d like to drive home the point that with every passing day, the United States loses market share to other countries competing with our ag product markets – some of it unlikely to be recaptured.”
  • Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa): “I convey this point to you from what I hear from my constituents. The impact of the proposed tariff is getting very real. We’ve watched the soybean market start to collapse from an upper-$9 range to a mid-$8 range—yesterday down 40 cents… As an example, losing $1.25 on [a] national average soybean yield of 49 bushel per acre equates to a farmer losing to $61.25 an acre because of these movements.”

AEM will continue to work with its members to evaluate the impact of the tariffs and work to suggest alternative ways to improve the administration’s trade policies as needed.

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