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A closer look at new tariffs

Automatic thermostats, cash registers and centrifugal clothes driers. These are among the products imported from China on the U.S. Trade Representatives’ tariff list.

These three products are among the most familiar items on a 35-page list that also includes several pages of alloys, steels, medical products and “Parts of stock pumps imported for use with machines for making cellulosic pulp, paper or paperboard,” to give another typical example.

See the full list of products on the proposed tariff list here.

All told, the proposed list covers some 1,300 separate tariff lines and are part of a plan to impose tariffs on some $50 billion worth of Chinese imports. The USTR says the move is a response to China’s policies that “coerce American companies into transferring their technology and intellectual property to domestic Chinese enterprises.”

The tariffs are part of an escalating trade dispute between the two countries. China has responded to the US move with tariffs of their own. In retaliation for previously announced tariffs on steel and aluminum, China released a list of 128 products that are subject to new tariffs. The list is made up largely of foods – pork products, pine nuts, lemons and limes, for instance – and a variety of steel pipes and tubes. [See China’s list here.]

Early Wednesday, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce reportedly added to their list – bringing cars, whiskey and tobacco, among other products, into the dispute.

It’s unclear when the new rounds of tariffs will take effect – setting the stage for diplomacy and negotiations, which could diffuse the situation — or not. In the meantime, the National Retail Federation was quick to voice their objection to the USTR proposal for new tariffs.

“As we’ve said all along, tariffs are taxes on consumers and a drag on the nation’s economy,” wrote NRF CEO Matthew Shay, in response to the publication of the tariff list. “While we are pleased that many everyday products such as clothing and shoes are not on the list, we remain concerned that other goods such as consumer electronics and home appliances are targets. And we believe that tariffs on certain machinery will make American-made products more expensive.”

Shay added that the trade dispute adds uncertainty that can disrupt “complicated global supply chains.

The National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association expressed similar opposition to the Trump Administration’s tariffs on steel imports.

For more on retailers’ reactions to the new tariffs, click here.
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