August 2, 2019

Whitehouse Bill Would Create Efficient Tariff Waiver Process

Tariff waivers are currently granted on ad hoc basis, creating uncertainty for some RI companies

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse has introduced the American Business Tariff Relief Act to address concerns raised by Rhode Island businesses regarding the process for companies to apply for exclusions from increased tariffs.  The new legislation would require the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) and the Department of Commerce to establish a process under which U.S. businesses can request exclusions from increased tariffs prior to the imposition of the new tariffs.

“President Trump’s tariffs are causing enormous uncertainty for Rhode Island companies as they make decisions about adding jobs and investing in research and development,” said Whitehouse.  “It is the least we can do to put in place a fair, orderly process to determine whether a business qualifies for a tariff waiver.”

The bill would require the USTR or the Department of Commerce to make a determination on applications for exclusions within 30 days and to provide a rationale for any denials.  It would also require the USTR and Commerce to establish offices to review exclusion requests.  The bill calls for a quarterly report to Congress providing detailed information about exclusion requests received and determinations made on such requests.

“Rhode Island manufacturers are struggling with uncertainty created by the lack of agreement on NAFTA and the tariff war with China,” said Dave Chenevert, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Manufacturers Association.  “Many business owners are hesitant to make investments in equipment or expansion because of these factors.  We’re grateful to Senator Whitehouse for helping Rhode Island employers navigate the tariff waiver process so they can have the certainty they need to create jobs and make long-term investments here.”   

The Department of Commerce or the USTR currently grants exclusions on an ad hoc basis.  The existing waiver application process is not specified in law, and companies are not able to apply for an exclusion until after tariffs have been levied. 

President Trump has imposed tariffs on over $260 billion in imports.  Rhode Island industries like jewelry manufacturing and the marine trades have been disproportionately affected by the increased tariffs.




Press Contact

Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921