The United States Trade Representative (USTR) has announced the next steps in its review of the Trump-era tariffs on Chinese imports. Today, on October 17, 2022, USTR published the official request for comments in the Federal Register. The tariffs were issued by then-President Donald J. Trump under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974.
USTR seeks comments from interested parties on the effectiveness of the tariffs in achieving the goals of the trade action, other actions or modifications that could be taken that would be more effective, and the effects on various aspects of the U.S. economy. The docket will open for comment on November 15, 2022 and close on January 17, 2023. In addition, USTR will post a copy of questions for the docket by November 1, 2022.
Section 301 Background
These tariffs date back to August 24, 2017, when USTR initiated its investigation into China’s acts and trade policies relating to intellectual property, technology, and innovation. As we all know, USTR determined that the Chinese government’s actions resulted in an unreasonable or discriminatory burden and restriction to U.S. commerce. Subsequently, over four different stages, USTR imposed the additional Section 301 tariffs on most of the imported goods from China. Each tranche (sometimes referred to as Lists 1, 2, 3, and 4(a)) covers a different list of goods with a different tariff rate listed below.
USTR also instituted a product exclusion process where parties could request certain goods to be temporarily afforded relief from the Section 301 tariffs. Most of the product exclusions granted have expired.
USTR Review of the Section 301 Tariffs
This review process was initiated by the Joseph R. Biden administration on May 5, 2022, when USTR announced it was commencing the statutory four-year review process required by Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974. In short, the purpose of the current review is to determine whether the tariffs imposed on goods under Lists 1, 2, 3, and 4A and related temporary exclusions should continue or expire on their four-year anniversary dates (July 6, 2022 and August 23, 2022 respectively). USTR then provided domestic industries that benefitted from the tariffs to comment on potential effects of the possible termination and an opportunity for the industries to request continuation of the tariffs.
Domestic Industry Advocates for Continuation of Section 301 Tariffs
Not surprisingly, USTR received many requests for continuation of the tariffs. Domestic producers and trade associations filed a total of 288 requests for List 1 and 146 requests for List 2. Based on the requests, on September 8, 2022, USTR announced the continuation of Section 301 tariffs.
Opportunity for Interested Parties to Propose Modifications to the Section 301 Tariffs
Next, interested parties will have the opportunity to advocate for potential modifications to the Lists 1, 2, 3 and 4A tariffs under the statutory four-year review. Comments must be filed between November 15, 2022 and January 17, 2023. While USTR will release specific questions to guide comments on November 1, 2022, USTR has already described general topics on which it would like comments from interested persons.
As you will see in the below list, the topics are very broad and invite a range of comments not only on the effectiveness of the tariffs, also on the nitty gritty details of negative impacts on the U.S. economy, consumers, technology advancements, workers, small businesses, and supply chains. While it remains yet to be seen how USTR will react to these comments, in our view, this provides a welcome opportunity to air grievances on the negative impact of the Section 301 tariffs and to advocate for potential relief.
- Effectiveness in obtaining the elimination of China’s practices related to technology transfer, intellectual property, and innovation as identified by USTR in its Section 301 investigation.
- Other actions or modifications that would be more effective in counteracting practices the USTR identified in its Section 301 investigation.
- Effects on the U.S. economy, including U.S. consumers.
- Effects on domestic manufacturing, including capital investments, domestic capacity and production levels, industry concentrations, and profits.
- Effects on U.S. technology, including U.S. technological leadership and U.S. technological development.
- Effects on U.S. workers, including employment and wages.
- Effects on U.S. small businesses.
- Effects on U.S. supply chain resilience.
- Effects on the goals of U.S. critical supply chains outlined in Executive Order 14017 and in subsequent reports and findings.
- Whether the actions have resulted in higher additional duties on inputs used for additional manufacturing in the United States than the additional duties on particular downstream products or finished goods incorporating those inputs.
Our international trade team is ready to assist companies and associations considering comments.