US lawmakers call for probe on disruptions to pandemic supplies

Critics argue US tariffs on Chinese goods could be impeding the medical response to the pandemic.

A surge in demand worldwide has interrupted flows of medical supplies and protective gear [Lindsey Wasson/Reuters]
A surge in demand worldwide has interrupted flows of medical supplies and protective gear [Lindsey Wasson/Reuters]

Citing concerns over severe supply disruptions, senior US legislators have called for an expedited investigation into specific imported products needed to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Some critics have argued US tariffs on Chinese goods could be impeding the response to the contagion. A huge surge in demand worldwide has interrupted flows of medical supplies and protective gear and led to shortages of many products.

US House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, a Democrat, and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, a Republican, asked the US International Trade Commission (ITC) to provide details about the source countries for such products, as well as tariff classifications and duty rates, by April 30.

They said the information would be used to help the committees and the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) propose or take “appropriate and responsive actions” but gave no details.

“As we grapple with the challenges presented by the novel coronavirus, we are keenly aware that our challenges are being severely exacerbated by disruptions and deficiencies in our supply of equipment, inputs, and substances needed for treating and otherwise responding to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Grassley and Neal wrote in their letter to ITC Chairman David Johanson on Monday.

USTR on March 20 opened a docket for businesses and individuals to propose the possible exclusion of goods needed for the pandemic response from US tariffs on Chinese goods.

The Trump administration has already granted exclusions for a number of Chinese goods, but officials have rejected a blanket 90-day deferral of all duties on Chinese goods proposed by some US companies to ease the economic impact of the pandemic.

To help shape the USTR and congressional response, the committees asked the ITC to provide detailed information for each product deemed necessary.

Source : Reuters

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