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Rule

Entry of Certain Steel Products

Document Details

Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

Published Document

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AGENCY:

Customs Service, Department of the Treasury.

ACTION:

Final rule.

SUMMARY:

This document adopts as a final rule, with some changes, a proposed amendment to the Customs Regulations to set forth special requirements for the entry of certain steel products. The steel products in question are primarily those designated by the President in Proclamation 7529 for increased duty or tariff-rate quota treatment under the safeguard provisions of section 203 of the Trade Act of 1974. The amendment requires the inclusion of an import license number on the entry summary or foreign-trade zone admission documentation filed with Customs for any steel product for which the U.S. Department of Commerce requires an import license under its steel licensing and import monitoring program.

EFFECTIVE DATE:

Final rule effective: March 21, 2003.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Lisa Santana, Office of Field Operations (202-927-4342).

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

On March 5, 2002, President Bush signed Proclamation 7529 “To Facilitate Positive Adjustment to Competition From Imports of Certain Steel Products,” which was published in the Federal Register (67 FR 10553) on March 7, 2002. The Proclamation was issued under section 203 of the Trade Act of 1974, as amended (19 U.S.C. 2253), and was in response to determinations by the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) under section 202 of the Trade Act of 1974, as Start Printed Page 13836amended (19 U.S.C. 2252), that certain steel products were being imported into the United States in such increased quantities as to be a substantial cause of serious injury, or threat of serious injury, to the domestic industries producing like or directly competitive articles. The action taken by the President in the Proclamation consisted of the implementation of certain “safeguard measures,” specifically, the imposition of a tariff-rate quota on imports of specified steel slabs and an increase in duties on other specified steel products. The Proclamation included an Annex setting forth appropriate modifications to the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) to effectuate the President's action. The modifications to the HTSUS, which involved Subchapter III of Chapter 99 and included the addition of a new U.S. Note 11 and the addition of numerous new subheadings to cover the affected steel products, were made effective with respect to goods entered, or withdrawn from warehouse for consumption, on or after March 20, 2002.

On March 5, 2002, the President issued a Memorandum to the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Commerce, and the United States Trade Representative entitled “Action Under Section 203 of the Trade Act of 1974 Concerning Certain Steel Products,” which also was published in the Federal Register (67 FR 10593) on March 7, 2002. The Memorandum included an instruction to the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Commerce to establish a system of import licensing to facilitate the monitoring of imports of certain steel products. In addition, the Memorandum instructed the Secretary of Commerce, within 120 days of the effective date of the safeguard measures established by Proclamation 7529, to publish regulations in the Federal Register establishing the system of import licensing.

On July 18, 2002, the International Trade Administration of the Department of Commerce published in the Federal Register (67 FR 47338) a proposed rule to establish a steel licensing and surge monitoring system as instructed by the President in the March 5, 2002, Memorandum. Under the Commerce proposal, all importers of steel products covered by the President's section 203 action, including those products subject to country exemptions or product exclusions, would be required to obtain a steel import license and to provide the license information (that is, the license number) to Customs except in the case of merchandise which is eligible for informal entry under § 143.21 of the Customs Regulations (19 CFR 143.21). Commerce proposed to institute a registration system for steel importers, and steel import licenses would be issued to registered importers, customs brokers or their agents through an automatic steel import licensing system. Once registered, an importer or broker would submit the required license application information electronically to Commerce, and the system would then automatically issue a steel import license number for inclusion on the entry summary documentation filed with Customs.

Although the Presidential Memorandum of March 5, 2002, vested primary responsibility for the steel product import licensing and monitoring procedures in the Secretary of Commerce, the Secretary of the Treasury, through the U.S. Customs Service, is primarily responsible for the promulgation and administration of regulations regarding the importation and entry of merchandise in the United States. Accordingly, on August 9, 2002, Customs published in the Federal Register (67 FR 51800) a notice of proposed rulemaking to amend the Customs Regulations to provide an appropriate regulatory basis for the collection of the steel import license number on the entry summary documentation in accordance with the proposed regulatory standards promulgated by the Department of Commerce. The proposed amendment involved the addition of a new § 12.145 (19 CFR 12.145) to require the inclusion of a steel import license number on the entry summary in any case in which a steel import license number is required to be obtained under regulations promulgated by the Department of Commerce.

The August 9, 2002, notice included in the preamble a discussion of the potential consequences under the importer's bond for a failure to provide the required steel import license number to Customs on a timely basis and included a statement that, after new § 12.145 has been adopted as a final rule, Customs would publish appropriate guidelines which could outline circumstances in which liquidated damage claims in these cases may be reduced to $50 for a late filing of the required information or to $100 in the case of a complete failure to file the information. The August 9, 2002, notice also invited the public to submit written comments on the proposed regulatory amendment for consideration by Customs prior to taking final action of the proposal.

On December 31, 2002, the International Trade Administration of the Department of Commerce published in the Federal Register (67 FR 79845) a final rule document to add new regulations implementing the Steel Import Licensing and Surge Monitoring program. Those regulations, set forth at 19 CFR part 360, consist of eight sections (§§ 360.101-360.108) and reflect, with some changes, the proposals outlined in the proposed rule published by the Department of Commerce on July 31, 2002. Those changes reflected in the final regulatory texts adopted by Commerce that have a substantive impact on the text of § 12.145 as proposed by Customs are identified in the discussion of comments on the Customs proposal set forth below.

Discussion of Comments

Three commenters responded to the solicitation of comments in the August 9, 2002, notice of proposed rulemaking. Those comments are summarized and responded to below.

Comment: One commenter asserted that foreign-trade zone (FTZ) activities are part of the U.S. economic territory (even though they are legally defined as outside the customs territory of the United States) and that FTZ-stored steel constitutes part of U.S. steel inventories. This commenter therefore argued that FTZ activities must be included in the steel import licensing system and, further, that this FTZ license requirement should be imposed once, that is, at the time of admission of the steel into the FTZ.

Customs response: Customs notes that the issue raised by this commenter concerns the scope of the steel import licensing program which is a matter for which the Department of Commerce, rather than Customs, is responsible; therefore, Customs has no authority to impose the standard suggested by this commenter. However, Customs also notes in this regard that whereas under the July 18, 2002, Department of Commerce proposals a license would have been required for steel products twice, that is, as they entered and as they left an FTZ, the Commerce regulations adopted in the December 31, 2002, final rule document have addressed the concern raised by this commenter. Section 360.101(c) of those regulations specifically provides that all shipments of covered steel products into FTZs will require an import license prior to the filing of FTZ admission documents, that the license number(s) must be reported on the application for FTZ admission and/or status designation (Customs Form 214) at the Start Printed Page 13837time of filing, and that a further steel license will not be required for shipments from FTZs into the commerce of the United States.

In order to reflect the standard regarding FTZ transactions set forth in the Commerce regulation referred to above, Customs in this final rule document has redrafted proposed § 12.145 to accommodate a reference to inclusion of the appropriate license number on Customs Form 214 at the time of filing with Customs. Thus, under the revised text, the import license number must be provided to Customs in two basic circumstances: (1) on Customs Form 7501 (or an electronic equivalent) in the case of entered merchandise; and (2) on Customs Form 214 in the case of merchandise admitted into an FTZ. In addition, the opening exception clause regarding informal entry that was included in the proposed text has not been retained in the revised § 12.145 text because it is covered in the license issuance standards promulgated by Commerce and thus does not have to be repeated here.

Comment: A commenter stated that in administrative message 02-0910 dated July 19, 2002, Customs presented a proposed methodology for enforcing compliance with the proposed licensing system subject to the August 9, 2002, Customs notice of proposed rulemaking. Under this methodology, foreign steel subject to licensing may enter a Customs bonded warehouse or be covered by a temporary importation bond (TIB) without a license; the license would be optional for both the warehouse and TIB entries. Stating that this optional treatment is inconsistent with the purpose of the licensing system, this commenter argued that all foreign steel subject to the licensing requirements should be treated identically, regardless of whether the steel is placed in a bonded facility, covered by a TIB, or admitted into an FTZ, and that this identical treatment should require the steel to be licensed and counted when it is admitted into an FTZ, entered into a bonded warehouse, or entered on a TIB.

Customs response: As regards the administrative message referred to by this commenter, Customs notes that it was intended only to advise the trade on the system requirements for filing the steel license information (number) when entry filing is effected electronically in the Automated Commercial System (ACS) through the automated broker interface (ABI). The administrative message was issued in recognition of the considerable lead time that is necessary in order to reprogram ABI user software and reflected the best information available at that time from the Department of Commerce regarding the steel import licensing program requirements, that is, the proposals published by Commerce on July 18, 2002.

As indicated in the preceding comment discussion regarding FTZs, the primary responsibility for the steel import licensing program rests with the Department of Commerce and, accordingly, Customs has no authority to impose standards that are at variance with the program requirements properly established by Commerce. Customs further notes that, in the final regulations published by Commerce on December 31, 2002, § 360.101(e) provides that import licenses are not required in the case of TIB entries, transportation and exportation (T&E) entries, and entries into a bonded warehouse, and that a license is required at the time of entry summary in the case of a covered steel product that is withdrawn from a bonded warehouse. In view of this regulatory standard, Customs cannot adopt the “identical” treatment principle suggested by this commenter, and the text of § 12.145 set forth in this final rule document has been modified to refer specifically to merchandise “entered, or withdrawn from warehouse for consumption, in the customs territory of the United States” in order to exclude from coverage TIB, T&E, and warehouse entry transactions.

Comment: A commenter referred to a statement that “[a]ll imports of steel products * * * will be required to obtain a steel import license and provide the license number to U.S. Customs on the entry summary.” This commenter raised the issue regarding the point at which a material is considered to be “imported” and suggested that, in the case of warehouse entries, that point should be when the material is withdrawn from the warehouse and a consumption entry is filed and not when the material is off-loaded under a warehouse entry and maintained in the bonded warehouse.

Customs response: The statement referred to by this commenter appeared in the proposed rule document published by the Department of Commerce on July 18, 2002, rather than in the notice of proposed rulemaking published by Customs on August 9, 2002. The statement was not set forth in that document as proposed regulatory text and therefore appears to have been directed to the general thrust of the steel import licensing program. Customs further notes that under the program as developed by Commerce, the mere fact of importation is not controlling as regards the licensing and license number reporting requirements. Rather, as already indicated in this comment discussion, the Department of Commerce proposals and final regulatory texts, as well as the text of § 12.145 as proposed and as set forth in this final rule document, make it clear that those requirements do not arise at the time of entry into a bonded warehouse but rather only upon withdrawal from the warehouse when Customs Form 7501 will be filed.

Comment: A commenter recommended that the Customs entry number not be a requirement at the time of applying for a license unless it is available at the time of filing. This commenter referred to two situations in which it would not be possible to provide the proper entry number when applying for the license. One situation involves Customs bonded warehouses, where the entry number assigned at the time of arrival in the United States is not the same as the entry number that applies when duty is eventually paid. The other situation involves split shipment situations where a portion of the cargo covered by one invoice or bill of lading is discharged and moved overland separately from the rest of the cargo, with the result that multiple entries will be filed for the merchandise covered by the one invoice or bill of lading.

Customs response: Customs first notes that the observations made by this commenter relate to the license issuance process which is controlled by the Department of Commerce regulations and not by the regulations promulgated by Customs. Moreover, Customs notes that, in the final regulations published by Commerce on December 31, 2002, § 360.103(b) provides that license filers are not required to report a Customs entry number to obtain an import license but are encouraged to do so if the entry number is known at the time of filing for the license. Accordingly, the concern expressed by this commenter has been addressed in the Commerce final regulations.

Comment: A commenter referred to a statement that “[t]he applicable license number(s) must cover the total quantity of steel entered and should match the information provided on the Customs entry summary.” This commenter argued that it would be difficult to meet this requirement in some cases involving warehouse entries. For example, where goods are withdrawn for export to Canada, the inclusion of those quantities on an application for a license at the time of “entry” into the port would have an impact on the validity of the data collected. This Start Printed Page 13838commenter also noted the possibility that a warehouse entry could be open for an extended period of time, requiring the government to monitor the open license for months or even years.

Customs response: The statement referred to by this commenter appeared in the proposed rule document published by the Department of Commerce on July 18, 2002, rather than in the notice of proposed rulemaking published by Customs on August 9, 2002, and this statement was not set forth in that document as proposed regulatory text. A similar statement does appear as regulatory text in the final rule document published by Commerce on December 31, 2002: The last sentence of § 360.101(a)(2) reads “[t]he applicable license(s) must cover the total quantity of steel entered and should cover the same information provided on the Customs entry summary.” This sentence appears in the context of a discussion of when a single license may cover multiple products and when separate licenses for steel entered under a single entry are required, and it immediately follows the statement that “[a]s a result, a single Customs entry may require more than one steel import license.” The regulatory text in question thus relates to the scope of the licensing procedure and therefore falls directly under the authority of Commerce rather than that of Customs.

Customs would also suggest that the potential problem outlined by the commenter regarding goods withdrawn from warehouse for shipment to Canada could be avoided by controlling the point at which application for the license is made. In other words, even though under 19 CFR 181.53 goods withdrawn from a U.S. duty-deferral program (such as a Customs bonded warehouse) for exportation to Canada must be treated as entered or withdrawn for consumption, and thus a Customs Form 7501 must be filed as a consequence of that exportation, the potential problem outlined by this commenter could be avoided simply if the importer did not apply for the license when the steel is entered in the warehouse but rather only when it, or any part of it, is withdrawn for shipment to Canada. This approach would also address the “open license” issue raised by this commenter.

Comment: One commenter raised an issue regarding the impact of the proposal on quota monitoring. The commenter specifically asked whether the licenses will play a role in tracking the quota for products excluded from the safeguard action that include a quota mechanism. This commenter suggested that the answer to this question would greatly impact both the timing for filing the license application and what information might need to be included on the application.

Customs response: Customs is simply responsible for collecting the license number and any related quota or other data required at the time of entry and for providing that data to the Department of Commerce. Responsibility for all other tracking aspects of the data collected lies with the Commerce and therefore is outside the regulatory authority exercised by Customs.

Comment: A commenter stated that the sole enforcement authority that Customs has regarding the proposed rule is the liquidated damages provision under 19 CFR 113.62. This commenter further argued that since Customs can mitigate liquidated damage claims, Customs must design its mitigation guidelines with respect to steel import licenses to ensure that importers will have a strong incentive to comply with the regulatory requirements. The commenter also referred to the preamble discussion in the August 9, 2002, notice of proposed rulemaking regarding future mitigation guidelines that would include a reduction of liquidated damage claims to $50 for a late filing of the required information or $100 in the case of a complete failure to file the information. Arguing that these amounts are negligible, the commenter stated that Customs should adopt guidelines similar to those which governed the entry of products from Canada under the 1996 Softwood Lumber Agreement, that is, mitigation to between 25 and 50 percent of the claim, but not less than $500 and not more than $3,000 per entry, and no mitigation if the importer completely failed to provide the required information.

Customs response: Customs does not agree that the mitigation standards applied to cases involving softwood lumber from Canada are appropriate in the present context. Subject to any changes that may be reflected in any published mitigation guidelines regarding the steel import license program, Customs remains of the opinion that the mitigated amounts reflected in the August 9, 2002, notice of proposed rulemaking are generally appropriate in this context.

Conclusion

Based on the final regulations adopted by the Department of Commerce and the analysis of the comments received as set forth above, Customs believes that proposed § 12.145 should be adopted as a final regulation with the changes to the text as discussed above.

Executive Order 12866

This document does not meet the criteria for a “significant regulatory action” as specified in E.O. 12866.

Regulatory Flexibility Act

Pursuant to the provisions of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.), it is certified that this amendment will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. Customs believes that the amendment, which involves the addition of only one data element to each of two existing required Customs forms, will have a negligible impact on importer operations. Accordingly, the amendment is not subject to the regulatory analysis or other requirements of 5 U.S.C. 603 and 604.

Paperwork Reduction Act

The collections of information in the current regulations have already been approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3507) and assigned OMB control number 1515-0065 (Entry summary and continuation sheet) and OMB control number 1515-0086 (Application for foreign-trade zone admission and/or status designation). This rule does not involve any material change to the existing approved information collections.

An agency may not conduct or sponsor, and a person is not required to respond to, a collection of information unless the collection of information displays a valid control number assigned by OMB.

Drafting Information

The principal author of this document was Francis W. Foote, Office of Regulations and Rulings, U.S. Customs Service. However, personnel from other offices participated in its development.

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List of Subjects in 19 CFR Part 12

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Amendment to the Regulations

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For the reasons stated in the preamble, Part 12 of the Customs Regulations (

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PART 12—SPECIAL CLASSES OF MERCHANDISE

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1. The authority citation for Part 12 continues to read in part as follows:

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Start Printed Page 13839 Authority: 5 U.S.C. 301; 19 U.S.C. 66, 1202 (General Note 23, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS)), 1624;

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2. A new center heading and new § 12.145 are added to read as follows:

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Steel Products

Entry or admission of certain steel products.

In any case in which a steel import license number is required to be obtained under regulations promulgated by the U.S. Department of Commerce, that license number must be included:

(a) On the entry summary, Customs Form 7501, or on an electronic equivalent, at the time of filing, in the case of merchandise entered, or withdrawn from warehouse for consumption, in the customs territory of the United States; or

(b) On Customs Form 214, at the time of filing under Part 146 of this chapter, in the case of merchandise admitted into a foreign trade zone.

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Robert C. Bonner,

Commissioner of Customs.

Approved: February 25, 2003.

Timothy E. Skud,

Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Treasury.

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[FR Doc. 03-6757 Filed 3-20-03; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 4820-02-P