SEMA eNews Vol. 23, No. 18, April 30, 2020

Americans for Free Trade Urges President Trump to Temporarily Delay All Import Duties Paid by U.S. Companies During COVID-19

By SEMA Washington, D.C., Staff

SEMA and many SEMA-member companies joined the Americans for Free Trade (AFT) coalition in urging President Trump to provide relief to struggling U.S. companies by delaying the current collection of import duties and fees. More than 470 businesses and trade associations signed a letter urging the Administration to defer duty collections through June.

In March, the AFT coalition asked the Administration to temporarily suspend the collection of duties during the COVID-19 crisis, including the Section 232 and 301 tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum and products from China. The Administration rejected the request.

In mid-April, President Trump issued an Executive Order allowing the temporary deferral of certain duties, taxes and fees made in March and April. The Order does not apply to the Section 232 and 301 tariffs. While the action may free-up cash for companies struggling under COVID-19 burdens, it is a temporary deferral rather than a suspension of collections. Further, the deferral is not automatic. The importer must demonstrate a significant financial hardship to qualify.  

The AFT coalition has now requested that President Trump expand the Executive Order to automatically defer collections on all duties (including Section 232 and 301 tariffs) made from the first half of March through the end of June. The action is needed to help mitigate the economic harm caused by COVID-19 and provide financial liquidity to companies during this crisis.

“Under the Executive Order, the collection of certain duties for 90 days was a good first step, but many companies were excluded from this measure and will still owe significant duties to the federal government during a time of economic crisis,” said Americans for Free Trade spokesperson Jonathan Gold. “As hundreds of small and large businesses face urgent liquidity issues, we are calling on President Trump to go further and delay all duty payments to help give companies the cash they need to stay open, preserve American jobs and be in a position of strength when the economy reopens.”

For more information, contact Stuart Gosswein at stuartg@sema.org.

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