US excludes some Chinese medical products from tariffs amid coronavirus outbreak

A shopper purchases several boxes of face masks at a Target in Alexandria, Virginia, US, on March 12, 2020.
A shopper purchases several boxes of face masks at a Target in Alexandria, Virginia, US, on March 12, 2020.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The US Trade Representative's office said it granted on Thursday (March 12) exclusions from import tariffs for some medical products imported from China, including face masks, stethoscope covers and blood pressure cuff sleeves.

The exclusions were granted as the United States grapples with a coronavirus outbreak that threatens to strain its healthcare system.

Earlier this month, USTR granted exclusions for other Chinese medical products, including hand sanitising wipes and examination gloves.

The products were included in a fourth round of tariffs on Chinese goods imposed by US President Donald Trump on Sept 1, 2019, amid heated US-China trade negotiations.

The tariff rate on the medical products was initially set at 15 per cent, but was lowered to 7.5 per cent on Feb 15 as part of the Phase 1 US-China trade agreement.

The deal leaves in place tariffs on about US$370 billion (S$523 billion) worth of imports from China, including 25 per cent duties on goods valued at around US$250 billion.