US reinstates tariff exemptions on some Chinese products

The tariff exclusions on the Chinese products will extend through the end of 2022. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The US government announced Wednesday (March 23) it will reinstate tariff exemptions for 352 Chinese products first hit with punitive duties in 2018, when then-president Donald Trump started a trade war with Beijing.

The exemptions lapsed in late 2020, but President Joe Biden's administration last October began seeking opinions on which of 549 eligible Chinese products should once again be excluded from the tariffs.

In a statement, the US Trade Representative (USTR) said, "Today's determination was made after careful consideration of the public comments, and in consultation with other US agencies."

The exclusions are retroactive to Oct 12 of last year and extend through the end of 2022, USTR said in a statement.

The Biden administration has been under pressure from businesses as well as Democratic and Republican lawmakers to alleviate the tariff burden, which critics say exacerbate supply issues and drive up prices as the United States deals with a record wave of inflation.

The trade conflict between the US and China began when Mr Trump imposed tariffs on US$370 billion (S$502 billion) worth of Chinese products, citing "unfair" trade practices.

However more than 2,200 exclusions were granted and 549 of those were extended, with most of the exclusions expiring at the end of 2020.

Washington and Beijing in January 2020 signed a so-called "phase one" trade agreement under which Beijing pledged to increase its purchases of American products and services by at least US$200 billion over 2020 and 2021 - a target China fell short of amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

US Trade Representative Katherine Tai has pledged to "engage robustly" with Beijing over its commitment to the deal, but said in January that "we're in a very difficult stage of this trade relationship" and "the conversations are not easy."

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