Chinese importers seek tariff waivers on US goods

A coal truck outside a logistics centre near Tianjin Port. China's Ministry of Finance last week posted a list of imports from the US for which tariff waivers could be granted; the items include meats such as beef and pork, soya beans, coal and coppe
A coal truck outside a logistics centre near Tianjin Port. China's Ministry of Finance last week posted a list of imports from the US for which tariff waivers could be granted; the items include meats such as beef and pork, soya beans, coal and copper scrap. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING • Chinese importers are preparing applications for waivers on import tariffs levied on more than 700 United States products in the Sino-US trade war, after the Finance Ministry said it would start taking submissions.

The ministry last week posted a list of goods for which waivers could be granted; the list includes meats such as beef and pork, soya beans, coal and copper scrap.

The waivers are for tariffs imposed in July last year on US$50 billion (S$68 billion) worth of US goods in retaliation for similar measures taken by Washington.

Beijing has since imposed additional tariffs on thousands of goods as a bitter trade war has escalated.

"We are preparing our application, we'll soon submit our materials," said Mr Shi Lei, a manager at meat importer Beijing Hopewise. "This is good news for us."

Beijing said last month that it would start a waiver programme. Other goods on the list include tractors, motorcycles, mountain bikes and some medical equipment.

"The import tariff waiver is a signal that China does not want to cause bigger conflicts with the US, and sends out a message that the country's opening-up process is still ongoing," economist Nie Wen at Hwabao Trust said.

Applicants have from June 3 to July 5 to apply for these waivers. A second batch of exemptions will be granted on tariffs that were imposed on US$60 billion worth of goods in September last year.

The application process for those waivers will open on Sept 2, the ministry said.

"Applicants must be interested parties in China, including importers, consumers and industrial associations," it said in a statement, adding that some waivers could be applied retroactively.

Industrial associations were encouraged to represent their members in making applications.

Applicants need to explain how the tariffs "have caused serious economic damage" to them and their industry. They must also say if there are alternatives to their US imports.

"The policy is mainly targeting firms that have bought and booked US (soya bean) shipments earlier during the trade truce, mostly state firms, to alleviate their burden," according to a source at a state-owned enterprise.

A Beijing-based coal trader, however, said: "Even though China is starting to accept waiver applications, I don't think it will necessarily encourage people to buy US coal."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 06, 2019, with the headline 'Chinese importers seek tariff waivers on US goods'. Print Edition | Subscribe