Aug 2, 2019

Trump's new China tariffs could hit tech hard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The tech industry was scrambling yesterday after President Trump announced plans to impose tariffs on the $300 billion worth of goods the U.S. imports from China annually that are not yet subject to such taxes.

Why it matters: Until now, the U.S. has tried to target the tariffs on items that consumers wouldn't feel as directly, but this new round would appear to hit all manner of everyday goods, including nearly all types of consumer electronics.

Between the lines: The Trump administration announced the moves even as it described recent trade talks with China as "productive." That's leaving many wondering whether the administration actually plans to levy these new taxes.

  • Plus, as this round of tariffs is more likely to be quickly noticed by consumers, the president may be risking disaffection among his base.

Details: Expected to be included in the new tariffs are all the "List 4" items not included in prior rounds, including everything from cellphones, laptops and game consoles to landline telephones, batteries and printer cartridges.

What they're saying:

  • President Trump: "Trade talks are continuing, and during the talks the U.S. will start, on September 1st, putting a small additional Tariff of 10% on the remaining 300 Billion Dollars of goods and products coming from China into our Country. ... We look forward to continuing our positive dialogue with China on a comprehensive Trade Deal, and feel that the future between our two countries will be a very bright one!"
  • Gary Shapiro, CEO of the Consumer Technology Association: "Retaliatory tariffs, whether 10% or 25%, are bad policy. The Trump administration is again taxing the American people in the form of new tariffs on their favorite technology products. Tariffs are taxes paid for by U.S. consumers, not China’s government."
  • Jason Oxman, CEO of tech trade group ITI: "The tariffs already in force have cost American consumers, workers, and businesses of all sizes more than $30 billion. ... We urge the president and his team to direct their focus on striking a long-term deal without using Americans’ wallets as leverage.”

Of note: Although the tariffs would appear to affect nearly all tech products not already covered, companies can seek case-by-case exemptions, something many are likely to do.

  • Several tech companies contacted by Axios, including Apple and Google, declined to comment.

Go deeper: The forever trade war

Go deeper

Trump escalates tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars worth of Chinese imports

President Trump said he would raise tariffs against China on Friday in the aftermath of China's newly announced tariffs and a steep stock market drop.

What's happening: Trump said on Friday that $250 billion worth of goods and products from China would be taxed at 30% instead of 25%, starting Oct. 1, and the remaining $300 billion worth of goods will be taxed at 15%, instead of 10%.

Go deeperArrowAug 23, 2019

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.

China announces retaliatory tariffs on $75 billion of U.S. goods

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

China announced Friday that it would levy retaliatory tariffs ranging from 5% to 10% on $75 billion of U.S. goods in two batches on Sept. 1 and Dec. 15, per CNBC.

Why it matters, via Axios' Dan Primack: Expectations were that the markets would be focused primarily on Fed Chair Jerome Powell's speech in Jackson Hole this morning, but this news will refocus investors on trade.

Go deeperArrowAug 23, 2019