June 8, 2023

The General Approved Exclusions rules are unfair to American aluminum extruders and as a result foreign imports have risen 82 percent and market penetration now exceeds 25 percent, the highest level in more than a decade.

Wauconda, Illinois - In 2018, the Department of Commerce (DOC) reported that rising aluminum imports "are ‘weakening our internal economy' and threaten to impair the national security as defined in Section 232" and imposed a 10 percent tariff in response. As a result, aluminum imports fell by 31 percent and domestic production rose by nearly a billion dollars between 2018-2021. As such, the DOC noted in public remarks that "the data show that those tariffs have been effective." Although these tariffs have curbed unfair foreign competition for primary aluminum producers, they have not sufficiently protected domestic aluminum extruders. This is because the DOC has adopted overly broad tariff exclusion rules.

The Aluminum Extruders Council (AEC) commends Senator Tom Cotton for leading this effort to ask the DOC to address the serious threats to the U.S. aluminum extrusion industry and its workers from untariffed imports. We are also very appreciative of senators Mitt Romney, Sherrod Brown, Debbie Stabenow, Rafael Warnock, Bob Casey, and Marco Rubio for also signing the letter. The aluminum extrusion industry plays a vital role in many sectors of the U.S. economy as well as in its defense and deserves fair and just treatment from the federal government.

The DOC's current exclusion process allows foreign-made extruded aluminum products to be imported tariff-free under the current rules if a product cannot immediately "be produced in the United States in a sufficient and reasonably available amount or of a satisfactory quality." If a U.S. aluminum extruder objects to an exclusion, they must prove their company can either produce the extruded product in eight weeks or produce the extruded product faster than any specified foreign competitor. AEC contends that "while the spirit of the requirements is reasonable, they have placed an unfair burden on American extruders," the letter states.

U.S. aluminum extruders employ more than 60,000 workers, possess hundreds of presses, and produce over five million custom shapes. The nature of custom manufacturing is that for the individual custom shape to be produced it requires product dimensions and specifications to acquire the necessary tooling, which can take weeks. The DOC nonetheless grants importers exemptions as if they were dealing with shelf-ready mass producers. U.S. aluminum extruders, in turn, have difficulty overturning these exclusions.  Indeed, because of the difficulty U.S. aluminum extruders have had in meeting the DOC's Aluminum 232 exclusion objection criteria, the DOC adopted a "General Approved Exclusion" or "GAE" process whereby importers of foreign-made aluminum extrusions do not even have to apply for an exclusion to the Aluminum 232 tariffs - they are granted automatically.  As such, AEC urges the DOC to revoke the GAE related to aluminum extrusions and revise the criteria upon which objections can be filed.

As a result of these exclusions, extruded aluminum imports have risen 82 percent and U.S. producers have lost millions of tons of possible sales since 2019. Extruded aluminum imports from Mexico, for one, which is suspected of accommodating Chinese transshipments, have risen an astonishing 150 percent.  

Since 2022, American extruders have been forced to cut shifts, capital investment, and production, putting this robust industry at risk and costing our nation nearly 9,000 jobs. Extrusion plants could be shuttered if these trends continue, which will hurt American workers and undermine America's defense industrial base.

The full Senate letter can be accessed here.