NCTO Advisory to the Trade — February 7, 2019
U.S. Section 301 Tariffs on Goods of Chinese Origin

U.S. Section 301 Tariffs on Goods of Chinese Origin


On August 14, 2017, the President issued a Memorandum instructing the Trade Representative to determine whether to investigate under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 laws, policies, practices, or actions of the Government of China that may be unreasonable or discriminatory and that may be harming American intellectual property rights, innovation, or technology development.

NCTO supports the ongoing Trump administration’s Section 301 case against China’s intellectual property abuses, testifying on and submitting written comments documenting the damaging effects of China’s IP theft on U.S. textile manufacturers. In doing so, NCTO advised placing tariffs on finished products, such as apparel and home furnishings, which would bring greater benefit to the North American textile supply chain. NCTO was also successful in removing products such as rayon fibers and most textile machinery, while continuing to push for an exclusion process for items not available domestically.

The United States and China are currently in high-level negotiations to determine if a settlement can be reached to resolve the 301 IPR case.  March 1, 2019 is the target date set by the Trump administration to reach a negotiated settlement.

So far three tranches of tariffs have been imposed. Below, in reverse chronological order, are the three tranches.

Tranche Three

On September 17, 2018, (just 12 days after the close of the September 6, 2018, comment period, and just two days after the transcript of the hearing was made available on USTR announced the final Tranche Three list of 5,745 full or partial lines of the original 6,031 tariff lines as the final Tranche Three list with 10% additional tariff to be imposed starting September 24, 2018. They fully or partially removed 297 tariff lines from the original proposed list. Included among the products removed from the proposed list are certain consumer electronics products such as smart watches and Bluetooth devices; certain chemical inputs for manufactured goods, textiles and agriculture; certain health and safety products such as bicycle helmets, and child safety furniture such as car seats and playpens.

Starting January 1, 2019, the level of the additional tariff was to increase to 25%. On December 3, 2018, the President announced that the tariffs would not increase on January 1st and stay at 10% while the U.S. and China negotiated. If no agreement is reached, they will go to 25% on March 2, 2019.

Tranche Three is of special interest to NCTO member because, unlike the earlier lists, it included textiles. The entirety of Chapters 50 through 60 of the tariff schedule was proposed, and eighteen 8-digit tariff lines in the textile chapters were removed from the finalized list that went into effect. That means that virtually all textile fibers, yarns, fabrics, and carpets were included in this action.

NCTO applauds the Trump Administration for including textile articles from China that are unfairly traded in contravention of China’s WTO commitments. However, there has been some unintended collateral damage. For a very limited number of early-stage processing textile inputs China is the sole source. Some of these textile inputs are ones for which NCTO members successfully petitioned for duty suspension, under the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill, only to find the duty suspension offset by the Section 301 tariffs. It is also important to note that apparel and most other textile products (Chapters 61 through 63 of the tariff schedule), which NCTO advocated should be on the list, are not subject to Section 301 tariffs. Reports of apparel retailers or consumers being affected directly by these tariffs are fake news.

Tranche Two

On August 8, 2018, USTR announced a list containing 279 of the original 284 tariff lines that were on a proposed list subject to 25% additional tariffs. These went into effect August 23. For companies with articles on that list there was an opportunity to file for an exclusion. So far no Tranche Two exclusion requests have been processed, due the backlog of Tranche One exclusion requests.

Tranche One

On April 3, 2018, USTR released a proposal to place an additional 25% import duty on products covered by 1,333 tariff classifications. Interested persons filed approximately 3,200 written submissions. In addition, USTR and the Section 301 Committee convened a three-day public hearing. The result was that 515 items were removed from the list. For companies with inputs on this list there was an opportunity to file for exclusions. The very large number of exclusion requests filed, 10,828, has meant that processing exclusions is taking a long time. As of January 30, 2019, 999 had been granted and 2,498 had been denied. Of the remaining request, 2,179 are at “Stage 3,” meaning they have passed the Initial Substantive Review of whether the exclusion request should be granted, and now USTR is consulting with Customs to determine whether an exclusion would be administrable. It can reasonably be assumed that many of the requests that have made it through to Stage 3 will likely be approved.