USTR affirms extra 5% tariff on Chinese goods

August 29, 2019 09:20
Business groups warned that the tariffs on Chinese goods would jack up consumer prices and trigger job losses. Photo: Bloomberg

The Trump administration made official its extra 5 percent tariff on US$300 billion in Chinese imports and set collection dates of Sept. 1 and Dec. 15, prompting hundreds of US retail, footwear, toy and technology companies to warn of price hikes.

The US Trade Representative's office said in an official notice that collections of a 15 percent tariff will begin at 12:01 a.m. EDT (0401 GMT) Sunday on a portion of the list covering over US$125 billion of targeted goods from China, Reuters reports.

This initial tranche includes smartwatches, Bluetooth headphones, flat-panel televisions and many types of footwear.

US Customs and Border Protection will also start collecting a 15 percent tariff on Dec. 15 on the remainder of the US$300 billion list, including cellphones, laptop computers, toys and clothing, USTR said in the Federal Register filing on Wednesday.

A USTR spokesman said the agency would issue a separate Federal Register notice with details of Trump’s planned tariff increase to 30 percent on US$250 billion in goods that have already been hit with a 25 percent tariff, including procedures for collecting public comments on the move.

Hundreds of retailers, footwear companies and business groups urged Trump to scrap the proposed tariffs, warning they would jack up consumer prices and trigger job losses.

More than 200 US footwear companies said the added 15 percent duties on shoes would come on top of tariffs that already average 11 percent and reach 67 percent on some shoes, boosting costs for consumers by US$4 billion every year.

“Imposing tariffs in September on the majority of all footwear products from China – including nearly every type of leather shoe – will make it impossible for hardworking American individuals and families to escape the harm that comes from these tax increases,” the companies wrote in a letter to Trump.

Over 160 other business groups, including the National Retail Federation, Retail Industry Leaders Association and Association of Equipment Manufacturers, also urged Trump to postpone the tariffs, warning they would hit Americans in the middle of the busy holiday shopping season.

US President Donald Trump announced the increase to 15 percent from 10 percent last Friday on Twitter, escalating the bitter US-China trade war after Beijing hit back with retaliatory tariffs on US$75 billion worth of US goods, including crude oil.

“China’s most recent response of announcing a new tariff increase on US goods has shown that the current action being taken is no longer appropriate,” USTR said in its notice announcing the higher tariff rates.

USTR accuses China of “unfair acts, policies and practices”, including its retaliatory tariffs and “concrete steps to devalue its currency”, allegations denied by Beijing.

The US Treasury earlier this month declared China a currency manipulator.

“In short, instead of addressing the underlying problems, China has increased tariffs and adopted or threatened additional retaliation to further protect the unreasonable acts, policies, and practices identified in the investigation, resulting in increased harm to the US economy,” USTR said in the notice.

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