US lawmakers ask Trump to keep tariffs off PPE, vaccine equipment

Personal protective equipment imported from China could face Trump’s trade war tariffs if exclusions are allowed to expire.

Ending tariff exclusions on personal protective equipment imported from China will hurt the US battle against COVID-19 and its small businesses, a group of legislators warn [File: Ted S Warren/AP Photo]

A bipartisan group of 75 United States lawmakers is urging the Trump administration to extend exclusions from import tariffs on medical products imported from China, including face masks, hand sanitising wipes and examination gloves as the country continues to battle record numbers of COVID-19 cases.

In a letter to US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, the legislators said failure to extend the exclusions beyond December 31 would hurt small businesses already suffering from stay-at-home orders aimed at containing the spread of the new coronavirus.

They said they recognised that the exclusions were granted in part to give US companies more time to diversify their supply chains out of China. But companies needed more time to complete those efforts given continuing travel restrictions, they said.

“Extending exclusions before they expire will help with pandemic response, and it will save jobs, businesses and livelihoods. We strongly urge you to extend all active exclusions before they expire at the end of this year,” the lawmakers said in the letter, which was dated Friday.

“Our economy remains in a fragile state due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and many of the expiring exclusions are critical to the pandemic response,” the letter said.

The exclusions cover inputs for household and professional cleaning goods, personal protective equipment and medical supplies, including equipment needed to administer COVID-19 vaccines, they said.

The US trade representative in March granted exclusions from import tariffs for dozens of medical products as the coronavirus outbreak widened.

The products were included in the fourth round of tariffs on Chinese goods imposed by President Donald Trump on September 1, 2019.

The tariff rate on the medical products was initially set at 15 percent, but was lowered to 7.5 percent on February 15 as part of the phase 1 US-China trade agreement.

The US trade representative had no immediate comment on the lawmakers’ request.

Source: Reuters