The Coronavirus pandemic has affected pretty much every aspect of life in the United States. We can now add trade policy to the list. As part of the Federal government’s efforts to address the spread and treatment of COVID-19, the Trade Representative’s office is considering exclusion of medical care products from the Section 301 tariffs on imports from China.
As a first step, USTR has asked for public comments identifying articles for removal. This will be a separate process from that used for each of the four “rounds” of tariff increases. It will apply to all four rounds. Products that were previously denied an exclusion are eligible for consideration, as are those covered by a pending exclusion request.
The catch, of course, is that the product should be “needed to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak.” A successful application will demonstrate how its characteristics and uses serve to identify, monitor, alleviate or cure the virus and its symptoms. USTR identified the following elements for inclusion in the requests:
- Each comment specifically must identify the particular product of concern and explain precisely how the product relates to the response to the COVID-19 outbreak. For example, the comment may address whether a product is directly used to treat COVID-19 or to limit the outbreak, and/or whether the product is used in the production of needed medical-care products.
- All comments must include the following information, to the extent possible:
- The applicable ten-digit HTSUS subheading
- The identity of the particular product in terms of its functionality and physical characteristics (e.g., dimensions, material composition, or other characteristics).
- Commenters may provide information concerning the producer, importer, ultimate consumer, or trademarks or tradenames, but this is less helpful.
Requests should be filed on the www.regulations.gov portal. The docket will remain open through June 25, 2020, and possibly beyond., though USTR urges filing as soon as possible. Response comments must be filed no later than three business days after the request.
This new procedure gives importers an opportunity to get clear of the Section 301 duties while benefitting public health at the same time. In my view, both are worthy causes.