The administration has already lifted tariffs on 200 medical-care products from China in response to the coronavirus outbreak but wants to know what more is needed.
The Trump administration has been in a trade war with China since the summer of 2018, but the worldwide coronavirus pandemic has the U.S. easing tariffs on certain Chinese goods related to the COVID-19 response.
Now, as the virus continues to wreak havoc across the country, the administration is asking for public feedback on additional Chinese technologies and products to consider adding to the tariff exemption list.
“In prior notices, the U.S. Trade Representative has modified the action in the Section 301 investigation of China’s acts, policies and practices related to technology transfer, intellectual property and innovation by removing additional duties from medical-care products needed to address the COVID-19 outbreak,” Office of the Trade Representative General Counsel Joseph Barloon wrote in a notice set to be published in the Federal Register on Wednesday. “In light of ongoing developments, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative is requesting public comments on possible further modifications to remove duties from additional medical care products.”
Beginning in August 2018, the Trump administration has imposed tariffs on goods from China, rolled out in four batches called tranches. As each tranche was published, the Trade Representative included a process for exempting certain goods deemed too critical to restrict, including medical devices and other health care products.
Since the coronavirus outbreak, “the U.S. Trade Representative, in consultation with the Department of Health and Human Services, prioritized the review of exclusion requests addressed to medical-care products related to the U.S. response to COVID-19,” ultimately granting exemptions for 200 products, according to the notice. “The exclusions covered personal protective equipment products and other medical-care related products.”
However, as the reality on the ground continues to change, the Trade Representative is acknowledging that there might be other products and technologies useful—or even necessary—in fighting this pandemic.
On Wednesday, the office will be publishing notice of a follow-up set of COVID-19 exemptions and is asking the public for input on what should be included in that list.
“Each comment specifically must identify the particular product of concern and explain precisely how the product relates to the response to the COVID-19 outbreak,” the notice states. “For example, the comment may address whether a product is directly used to treat COVID-19 or to limit the outbreak, and/or whether the product is used in the production of needed medical-care products.”
Public comments will be accepted through at least June 25—and possibly longer—though the Trade Representative is asking that people submit sooner.
“To facilitate timely consideration of possible modifications, interested parties should submit comments as promptly as possible,” the notice states. Once a comment is posted, the notice also urges people to post responses to those comments within three days, especially if they want a response in return.