Aug 13, 2019 - Economy & Business

Scoop: How the U.S. decided which China tariffs will be delayed

The U.S. flag flies over a container ship unloading it's cargo from Asia, at the Port of Long Beach, California. Photo: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

The Trump administration's list of goods from China that won't be subject to a 10% tariff until Dec. 15 is made up of "products where 75% or more of the 2018 U.S. imports of that product were from China," according to an email sent to trade groups from the U.S. Trade Representative Office.

Why it matters: The initial press release from the USTR said certain items would see a delay in taxes "as part of USTR's public comment and hearing process," but it did not specify whether there was a formula involved in the two list designations. The items subject to the Sept. 1 tariff are those that are less commonly imported from China.

Expand chart

Details: An explanation for the tariff lists and additional details will be published Wednesday in the Federal Register, but weren't widely available to the public when the announcement was made on Tuesday.

  • For products where less than 75% of 2018 U.S. imports were from China, the 10% tariff — which has manufacturers howling — will take effect Sept. 1.
  • Items like video games and certain clothing and toys won't be affected until mid-December, by which time companies will largely be finished with their orders for the holiday season. A large swath of athletic apparel and sports equipment, meanwhile, will still see tariffs on Sept. 1.
  • A group of goods, like child safety seats, will be removed from the list altogether "based on health, safety, national security and other factors." The USTR says it will "conduct an exclusion process for products" that will face these tariffs eventually, meaning more items could be bumped off this list.

The significance of the 75% cutoff is unclear, and the U.S. Trade Representative's office would not comment on it.

Between the lines: As we've seen throughout the U.S.-China trade war, these tariffs are subject to developments that crop up during negotiations.

  • The Chinese Ministry of Commerce said that U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and China's Vice Premier Liu He spoke on Tuesday and that the parties would commence trade talks within the next 2 weeks.

Speaking to reporters, Trump said the tariff move was an attempt to provide some relief for retailers — and ultimately consumers, who could face higher prices if the additional costs from tariffs are passed on.

  • It was the first time Trump publicly acknowledged that consumers would be hurt by tariffs. He has previously claimed that China pays tariffs directly into the U.S. Treasury, which is not correct.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

The "phase one" deal isn't all that it seems

Vice Premier Liu He and President Trump after signing phase one Wednesday. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

There was limited fanfare from the stock market after President Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He signed the "phase one" trade deal yesterday.

What happened: The 94-page document will roll back some U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods and see China increase purchases of U.S. goods and services by $200 billion over two years, but it leaves more questions than answers, experts say.

Go deeperArrowJan 16, 2020

Americans pay the full cost for Trump's aluminum tariffs

Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump's tariffs have notably increased the price of aluminum for U.S. businesses and consumers, a study provided first to Axios shows.

Why it matters: Trump has insisted the cost of the tariffs would be borne by China and other exporters, but the data shows that Americans are paying the costs.

Go deeperArrowJan 28, 2020

Gary Cohn says Trump tariffs on China "totally hurt the United States"

President Trump's former chief economic adviser Gary Cohn said on CBS's "Face the Nation" Sunday that he thinks the president's tariffs on China "totally" hurt the United States, and that he doesn't believe they have helped achieve a different "outcome" with China.

Go deeperArrowJan 19, 2020