The US exempts hundreds of Chinese products from tariffs

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  • The Trump administration took steps early Friday to exclude from tariffs hundreds of Chinese products, ranging from drinking straws to pet supplies.
  • The move came as the US and China headed into a second day of deputy-level talks in Washington on Friday.
  • But it was widely seen as an attempt to shield American companies and consumers from price increases.
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The Trump administration took steps early Friday to exclude from tariffs hundreds of Chinese products, ranging from drinking straws to pet supplies.

The US will retroactively remove tariffs on a portion of the $250 billion worth of products targeted by President Donald Trump in 2018, according to three notices published by the Office of the US Trade Representative in the Federal Register. Other products included certain types of medical supplies, sporting equipment, and household supplies.

The White House and the USTR Office did not respond to requests for comment.

The US and China headed into a second day of deputy-level talks in Washington on Friday. But the move was seen more so as an attempt to shield domestic companies and consumers from the trade dispute than as a gesture to China.

Both countries escalated tensions this summer and vowed to expand tariffs to a broader range of imports by the end of the year. Signs of public backlash against tariffs have mounted in recent months as their effects began to spill over to more consumer products, worrying not only investors and businesses but also households.

That could pose challenges for Trump as he campaigns for reelection. Recent polls suggest an increasing number of Americans are worried about tariffs and would at least partly blame Trump in the event of an economic downturn.

The president recently acknowledged for the first time that the costs of tariffs could hurt business at home. In August, he temporarily delayed a portion of escalations until after the holiday shopping season and excluded some products.

“We’re doing this for the Christmas season,” Trump told reporters of the plans. “Just in case some of the tariffs would have an impact on US consumers.”

But the White House argues that tariffs are still necessary to pressure China to change technology and intellectual property rules that officials say put the US at a disadvantage.

One factor USTR officials considered in the exclusions process was whether tariffs on a product could cause “severe economic harm.” Others included whether the product was available only in China and how strategically important it was to industrial programs there.

Tariff exclusions will retroactively be applied to products in three separate batches between July and September 2018, depending on when they took effect within that period.

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