July 16, 2018

U.S. Government Calls For Comment On Proposed Tariffs On Chinese Products

On July 10, just days after placing Section 301 tariffs on $34 billion in imports from China, the Trump administration threatened to impose a 10 percent penalty on another $200 billion in Chinese-made goods. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer blamed the decision on the Chinese government’s decision to retaliate for the earlier U.S.-imposed tariffs. In a statement, Ambassador Lighthizer also argued, “This is an appropriate response under the authority of Section 301 to obtain the elimination of China’s harmful industrial policies.”

Several metals and metals products are on the list of potentially-affected imports, including:

  • Iron and steel (7201-7205, 7216, 7301-7303, 7307-7318, 7320-7326);
  • Copper (7401-7413, 7415, 7418-7419);
  • Nickel (7501-7508);
  • Aluminum (7602-7603, 7610-7616);
  • Lead (7801-7802, 7804, 7806);
  • Zinc (7901-7905, 7907);
  • Tin (8001-8003, 8007);
  • Other base metals (8101-8113);
  • Metal tools and cutlery (8201-8211, 8215); and
  • Other metal articles (8301-8303, 8306-8311)

The full proposed list and process for the public comment period is outlined here. As with previously proposed tariff lists, USTR will allow other stakeholders to comment on proposed items and suggest items for deletion or addition. The timeline for that 50-day process is:

  • July 27, 2018: Due date for filing requests to appear and a summary of expected testimony at the public hearing, and for filing pre-hearing submissions.
  • August 17, 2018: Due date for submission of written comments.
  • August 20-23, 2018: The Section 301 Committee will convene a public hearing in the main hearing room of the U.S. International Trade Commission, 500 E Street SW, Washington DC, 20436 beginning at 9:30 am.
  • August 30, 2018: Due date for submission of post-hearing rebuttal comments.

Although the announcement did not provide any details about when the new batch of tariffs would be imposed, the 50-day process indicates that the new penalties could be imposed by early September.

The USTR also has outlined a process by which companies can request exclusion from the Section 301 tariffs that already have been imposed. That process is as follows:

  • Companies can file exclusion requests until October 9, 2018.
  • Following public posting of the filed exclusion request on Regulations.gov, the public will have 14 days to file responses to the request. After the close of the 14 day response period, interested persons will have an additional seven days to reply to any responses received in support of or opposition to the request.
  • Exclusions will be effective for one year upon the publication of the exclusion determination in the Federal Register, and will apply retroactively to July 6, 2018.
  • Because exclusions will be made on a product basis, a particular exclusion will apply to all imports of the product, regardless of whether the importer filed a request.
  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection will apply the tariff exclusions based on the product.

U.S. Trade Representative Lighthizer has promised, “[T]he United States is willing to engage in efforts that could lead to a resolution of our concerns about China’s unfair trade practices and to China opening its market to U.S. goods and services,” but Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin admitted last week that those talks have broken down.

Further exacerbating matters, the Chinese government issued a statement after Lighthizer’s July 10 announcement strongly criticizing the United States government. The statement, which is available here, said, “The slander of the United States against China about gaining extra advantage through unfair trade practice is a distortion of facts and hence is groundless.”