On the list: From flamethrowers to cassette players and bombs

WASHINGTON • When you export half a trillion dollars worth of stuff to the United States, there is bound to be some unusual items in the mix.

Like flamethrowers. And foetal bovine serum.

Those are some of the hundreds of items on the Trump administration's proposed list of US$50 billion (S$65 billion) worth of Chinese imports to be targeted for additional 25 per cent tariffs. The 45 pages of products were released in Washington on Tuesday, with the US Trade Representative's (USTR) office allowing about 60 days for public comment and feedback.

That will give American consumers of Chinese hearing aids time to register their concerns. And chainsaw users. Also buyers of "haymaking machinery other than mowers", which also make the list.

And who knew people still buy cassette players, some two decades after the introduction of MP3 players and almost 10 years after the launch of Spotify?

Perhaps oddly, phonograph records make the list, but not players - you would think it would be the other way round, with some baby boomers looking for a turntable to play an old vinyl.

The National Rifle Association might have something to say about its members having to pay more for imported rifles and telescopic scopes. But one might hope there are few private users of bombs, grenades and rocket launchers, all of which are on the list.

Of course, there are plenty of plain-vanilla manufactured goods, from engines and machine tools to turbines and combine harvester-threshers. But a casual reader might wonder how many nuclear reactors the US imports every year.

The USTR said the list was compiled after analysts from several US government agencies identified items that "benefit from Chinese industrial policies", after the removal of products judged likely to "cause disruptions to the US economy".

Domestic makers of dental fillings will doubtless be pleased their products did not qualify for such an exclusion.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 05, 2018, with the headline 'On the list: From flamethrowers to cassette players and bombs'. Print Edition | Subscribe