Articles in Category: Global Trade

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Rising trade tensions are all the talk these days, stemming from an increasingly complicated web of tariffs, counter-tariffs and World Trade Organization (WTO) disputes, not to mention the ongoing talks surrounding renegotiation of the 24-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

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On Wednesday, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross testified before the Senate Finance Committee, during which he was grilled by committee members on the Trump administration’s current and proposed trade actions, including Section 232 steel and aluminum tariffs, the recently launched Section 232 automotive probe and the Section 232 exclusion request process. (The Department of Commerce this week announced it would grant 42 exclusion requests and deny 56. The total 98 requests in question represented less than 1% of the more than 20,000 requests received.)

The full video of the Wednesday hearing is available on the Senate Finance Committee website.

“Commerce has received more than 20,000 steel and aluminum exclusion requests (including resubmissions) and has posted more than 9,200 for public review and comment,” Ross said during his opening statement. “Commerce has also received more than 2,300 objections to exclusion requests. Review of exclusion requests and related objections is being conducted on a case-by-case basis in a fair and transparent process.”

In his opening statement, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) expressed concerns about the tariffs’ impact on domestic businesses.

“American manufacturers are already suffering the consequences of increased cost and decreased supply of steel and aluminum inputs,” Hatch said. “Take for example, Bish’s Steel Fabrication. Bish’s makes custom industrial equipment in my hometown, Salt Lake City, Utah, and sells to customers in the United States and around the globe. Bish’s has been in business since 1945, but because of the Section 232 tariffs, they are worried about their future. Steel prices are going up. Not just foreign steel subject to tariffs, but also U.S. steel.

“As a consequence, Bish’s has lost its competitive edge against foreign manufacturers and the company tells me that contracts for future work have all but dried up.”

Questions on the 232 Exclusion Process

Hatch also expressed reservations regarding the Section 232 tariff exclusion process.

“It should come as no surprise that many of us on the committee have concerns about the process, effects, and strategy behind these investigations and resulting actions,” he said. “That includes the serious problems that Senator Wyden and I raised in April about the product exclusion process, a process that still needs significant improvement.”

Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) also offered criticism of the process and its efficacy, and requested that Ross provide a specific timetable with specific fixes for the process so that “the small businesses and the workers who are contacting us can really have a sense of what’s going to happen.”

“It’s impossible to commit to a specific timetable when we don’t know how many requests are yet to come in,” Ross said. “That’s one big problem. As you can see, there are still requests coming in.”

Wyden, however, suggested the Department of Commerce was not prepared for the volume of requests that have come in.

Section 232 Auto Probe

On May 23, the Department of Commerce self-initiated a new Section 232 investigation into whether imports of automobiles and automotive parts threaten to impair the country’s national security.

In response to a question from Hatch regarding national security implications, Ross responded that it was still too early in the investigation to identify those factors. He added that as required by the law, he has sent a notification to Secretary of Defense James Mattis to seek his input on the investigation, as was done with the steel and aluminum cases.

In response to a later question from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Ross added there is no decision yet as to whether to recommend tariffs.

“We are at the early stages of the process,” Ross said. “We have invited the various participants in the industry to make their submissions. They requested some extra time, so we gave them an extra week to do so.”

Production Restarts

In his opening statement, Ross argued for a positive effect of the tariffs, that being domestic manufacturers restarting previously idled capacity, listing a number of company announcements (including U.S. Steel’s announcements this year that it will restart two blast furnaces at its Granite City, Illinois plant).

Grassley asked Ross how long it will take for domestic plants to be able to ramp up production enough to bring prices of steel back down. Ross said he couldn’t identify exactly when the production restarts would come to fruition, but that they should happen in most cases by the end of the year.

He added, however, that certain “intermediary parties” withholding inventory from the market has contributed to price increases and that an investigation is being started to determine whether people “illegitimately are profiteering out of the tariffs.”

“So the price of steel and for a while the price of aluminum went up far more than is justified by the tariffs,” Ross said.

Canadian Steel

The Trump administration’s announcement late last month that it would let temporary exemptions from the Section 232 steel and aluminum tariffs expire for the E.U., Canada and Mexico have led to threats of retaliation from the intended parties and questions from some domestically about the purpose of such tariffs against market-economy trading partners and allies.

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) asked Ross about Canada and how its steel industry is considered a threat to national security in the context of Section 232.

“What is the national security rationale for putting a tariff on the Canadian steel industry with whom we have a trade surplus?” Bennet asked.

Ross noted the remedy has to be a global solution, citing efforts by China, for example, to reroute exports through third-party countries in order to avoid tariffs.

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“The only way we’re going to solve the global steel overproduction and overcapacity [problem] is by getting all the other countries to play ball with us,” Ross said. “And while they’re complaining bitterly about the tariffs, the fact is they’re starting to take the kind of action, which if they had taken sooner, would have prevented this crisis.”

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pennsylvania), however, was not satisfied with Ross’ answer.

“What policy change would the Canadians have to make, what would they have to do so that the administration would stop taxing my constituents on the steel that they buy from Canada?” Toomey asked.

Ross suggested breakdown of talks on NAFTA contributed to the decision to lift the Section 232 exemptions for Canada and Mexico, and that the NAFTA talks could get a second wind on the heels of the July 1 Mexican presidential election.

“Our objective is to have a revitalized NAFTA, a NAFTA that helps America,” Ross said. “As part of that, the 232s would logically go away, both as it related to Canada [and] Mexico.”

Toomey followed up by arguing the proposed sunset clause suggested by the American negotiating team would lead to a “lesser” NAFTA and said the administration’s trade actions are based on “economic nationalism,” not national security considerations.

He also alluded to the recent bill he proposed along with Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tennessee), a bill which calls for giving Congress the authority to block the president’s tariff actions.

“I would urge my colleagues to support the legislation that Sen. Corker and I have, which would restore to Congress the authority to make the final decisions about the imposition of those tariffs.”

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said he supported enacting trade remedies in the case of China, but that Section 232 should be used “very carefully and very selectively” and, more specifically, for national security reasons.

“Although the WTO has not yet adjudicated this case, if we’re pushing the envelope beyond national security, I think we lose a tool that could be very important for us in a true national security situation,” he said. “[I’m] deeply concerned about its application to Canada, as an example. … Mexico, the E.U., I don’t see the national security perspective there.”

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This morning in metals news, JSW Steel USA announces it will add 1,000 jobs, India announces retaliatory tariffs in response to the U.S. steel tariff and aluminum tariffs, and the copper price fell for a second straight week.

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JSW Announces New Jobs

JSW Steel USA announced it would be investing $1 billion in two locations and hiring 1,000 jobs in the process, CNBC reported.

The firm announced the investment would be in Mingo Junction, Ohio, and Baytown, Texas. CEO John Hritz credited the Trump administration’s Section 232 tariffs for helping the company to expand, according to the report.

India Strikes Back at U.S. Tariffs

The U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs unsurprisingly sparked off a series of announcements from around the world regarding intentions by other countries to retaliate.

India is the latest country to join the list, announcing its intended regimen of retaliatory tariffs this week. According to the Financial Times, India has identified $240 million in U.S. goods to be targeted for tariffs, including chickpeas, walnuts, almonds and lentils.

Copper Falls Again

The copper price fell for the second straight week, Reuters reported.

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The LME price fell 3.1% this week, while Shanghai copper fell 3.3%, according to the report.

It may seem like we are on the brink of a trade war Armageddon.

Certainly, stock markets have reacted negatively to the threat of a trade war between the world’s two largest economies, the U.S. and China.

But the reality is we are in the midst of a crude, clumsy and haphazard negotiating process — one that ultimately will be settled.

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The process of threat, bluster and bullying is typical of a property mogul’s approach. It likely works well in that market, but is anathema to diplomats and industrialists who prefer a more nuanced, thoughtful and largely (although not exclusively) collaborative approach.

Unconventional as President Donald Trump’s approach is (though it does not mean it may not be successful), if just seen from the current stage of the “negotiations” it looks pretty appalling.

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The European Union announced Wednesday that it will impose duties on a list of U.S. products, worth approximately €2.8 billion, in response to the U.S.’s steel and aluminum tariffs. The 25% duty will go into effect Friday, June 22.

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The U.S.’s 25% duty on steel imports and 10% duty on aluminum imports went into effect after the U.S. announced at the end of May that it would not continue the temporary exemptions from the tariffs for the E.U., Canada and Mexico.

The list of U.S. products that will be subjected to the tariffs includes steel and aluminum products, in addition to agricultural goods and a “combination of other various products.” Other products subject to the duty include bourbon, motorcycles and orange juice. (A full list of the products is available here.)

“By putting these duties in place the EU is exercising its rights under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules,” a release on the European Commission’s website states.

Echoing previous comments, E.U. Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom alluded to the rules of international trade in justification of the move.

“We did not want to be in this position,” Malmstrom said in a prepared statement. “However, the unilateral and unjustified decision of the US to impose steel and aluminium tariffs on the EU means that we are left with no other choice. The rules of international trade, which we have developed over the years hand in hand with our American partners, cannot be violated without a reaction from our side. Our response is measured, proportionate and fully in line with WTO rules. Needless to say, if the US removes its tariffs, our measures will also be removed.”

The E.U. duties on U.S. goods will be “effective for as long as the US measures are in place, in line with the WTO Safeguards Agreement and EU legislation,” according to the release.

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“The EU will rebalance bilateral trade with the US taking as a basis the value of its steel and aluminium exports affected by the US measures,” the statement continues. “Those are worth €6.4 billion. Of this amount, the EU will rebalance on €2.8 billion worth of exports immediately. The remaining rebalancing on trade valued at €3.6 billion will take place at a later stage – in three years’ time or after a positive finding in WTO dispute settlement if that should come sooner.”

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This morning in metals news, the European Union plans to import retaliatory tariffs against the U.S. this week, Canada is considering aid to auto companies in light of proposed U.S. auto tariffs and President Trump’s trade adviser defends the administration’s tariff strategy.

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E.U. to Strike Back

The E.U. will impose tariffs on the U.S. this Friday in response to the latter’s steel and aluminum tariffs, Reuters reported.

The new 25% duty will impact a wide range of items, including farm products, bourbon, jeans and motorcycles, according to the report.

Canada Prepares to Rev Up Potential Auto Tariff Response

On another U.S. trade front, Canada says it is prepared to provide financial aid to the auto industry should the U.S. impose auto tariffs, Reuters reported.

“The message I would convey to the auto sector workers is – we have your backs,” Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains was quoted as saying.

Trump Trade Adviser Defends Potential $200B in Tariffs

President Trump’s trade adviser, Peter Navarro, defended the recent announcement in which the president directed the U.S. Trade Representative to identify an additional $200 billion in Chinese goods to be subjected to a 10% tariff.

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“No one should be surprised,” Navarro was quoted as saying. “President Trump has given China every chance to change its aggressive behavior.”

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In a letter dated June 18 to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Canadian Chamber of Commerce CEO and President Perrin Beatty — along with nine heads of provincial Chambers of Commerce — wrote to express “support for the government’s efforts to defend Canadian interests in the face of unprecedented trade actions by the United States government.”

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The U.S. announced May 31 that it would impose its Section 232 steel and aluminum tariffs on Canada (as well as Mexico and the European Union), ending the temporary exemption for the country from the duties.

Canada was the world’s 19th-largest steel exporter last year. In 2017, 90% of Canada’s steel exports went to the U.S. (the second-largest export market, Mexico, came in at 7%).

“We fully support the government’s firm position that steel and aluminum exports from Canada do not pose a national security threat to the U.S. Our members are on the front lines of the cross-border supply chains that help drive the Canadian and American economies and support mutual national security through our joint defence industrial base,” the letter reads.

In the letter, Beatty supported the “dismantling of trade barriers,” while arguing the U.S. tariffs have forced Canada’s hand.

“However, the American government’s actions leave our country no choice but to respond in a fashion designed to encourage the withdrawal of U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs at the earliest possible opportunity,” the letter reads. “We urge the government to maintain an open dialogue with Canadian businesses to ensure that any unintended consequences for companies and workers are mitigated, particularly in those sectors that are most trade-dependent.”

According to U.S. Census Bureau data, the U.S. had a $4.55 billion deficit in goods with Canada through the first four months of 2018. The U.S. had a $17.05 billion deficit with Canada in 2017.

“Despite the unprecedented environment created by the U.S. government’s actions, we fully support the government’s continued efforts to achieve a modernized North American Free Trade Agreement,” the letter concludes. “Canadian negotiators should remain at the table and not allow the illegal and unjustified U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs to derail negotiations for an agreement that meets 21st century business needs.”

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The other signatories to the letter, all presidents of their respective Chambers of Commerce, were (province in parentheses): Ken Kolby (Alberta), Trevor Wever (Northwest Territories), Sheri Somerville (Atlantic), Rocco Rossi (Ontario), Val Litwin (British Columbia), Steve McLellan (Saskatchewan), Stephane Forget (Quebec), Peter Merrick Turner (Yukon) and Chuck Davidson (Manitoba).

Speaking of Chambers of Commerce, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce last week panned the U.S. announcement on tariffs to be placed on Chinese imports.

“Imposing tariffs places the cost of China’s unfair trade practices squarely on the shoulders of American consumers, manufacturers, farmers, and ranchers,” U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue said in a prepared statement on the Chamber’s website. “This is not the right approach.”

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Despite a brief window last month in which trade tensions between the U.S. and China seemed to have deescalated, said tensions have resumed apace in recent days.

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On Friday, the U.S. announced the list of just over 1,100 products worth $50 billion that are targeted for a 25% duty in two stages (with the first, worth $34 billion, set to go into effect July 6). Then, on Monday, President Donald Trump directed the U.S. Trade Representative to identify an additional $200 billion in goods to be subjected to a 10% import tariff.

“I support the President’s action,” USTR Robert Lighthizer said in a prepared statement. “The initial tariffs that the President asked us to put in place were proportionate and responsive to forced technology transfer and intellectual property theft by the Chinese. It is very unfortunate that instead of eliminating these unfair trading practices China said that it intends to impose unjustified tariffs targeting U.S. workers, farmers, ranchers, and businesses. At the President’s direction, USTR is preparing the proposed tariffs to offset China’s action.”

According to the USTR release: “USTR will announce the additional tariffs proposed and provide a similar legal process as the proposed tariffs announced on April 3, 2018 and which are now implemented. No additional tariffs will go into effect until the legal process is complete.”

The U.S. decision came on the heels of China’s announcement that it would impose retaliatory tariffs to counteract the $50 billion in U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods.

Unsurprisingly, China reacted negatively to the news.

“Such practice of imposing extreme pressure and blackmailing is contrary to the consensus the two sides have reached through rounds of consultations, and disappoints the international community,” a China Ministry of Commerce spokesperson said, as quoted by the state-run Xinhua News Agency.

“The trade war waged by the United States is against both the law of the market and the development trend of today’ s world. It undermines the interests of the Chinese and American people, the interests of companies and the interests of the people all over the world.”

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The spokesperson added “that if the United States loses its rationality and unveils another list of Chinese products for additional tariffs, China will have no choice but to take comprehensive measures combining quantitative and qualitative ones to resolutely strike back,” according to the Xinhua report.

“China does not want a trade war, but it does not fear one,” said Geng Shuang, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, during a press briefing Tuesday, as quoted by Xinhua.

Source: wto.org

Norway became the latest country to request consultations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) with the U.S. over its Section 232 steel and aluminum tariffs. The dispute complaint was circulated to WTO members June 19.

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“In Norway’s view, the additional tariffs imposed by the US on steel and aluminium imports are a violation of the WTO rules,” Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide said in a prepared statement last week. “Today we have therefore requested dispute settlement consultations with the US in the WTO. The WTO and its dispute settlement system is the established forum for handling disagreements about trade policy.”

Norway, which is home to aluminum producer Norsk Hydro, is Europe’s top aluminum producer (the country is not a member of the European Union, but has membership in the European Economic Area).

According to the release from Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, only 0.2% of Norway’s steel and aluminum exports go to the U.S.

“In the long run, we all benefit from a situation where right trumps might in international trade,” Eriksen Søreide said. “Such a disregard for WTO rules weakens the credibility of the United States in international trade, and risks undermining the rules based multilateral trading system.”

India initiated a complaint against the U.S. tariffs in May. Mexico also requested consultations, while the E.U. and Canada have also done so.

Trade tensions have picked up in recent months, as the U.S. tariffs have sparked backlash from some of the U.S.’s closest trading partners. The WTO has come in for much criticism from President Trump, but figures to be a battleground — albeit a slow-moving one — for trading partners formally objecting to the U.S. tariffs.

In addition, last weekend the G7 summit in Charlevoix, Quebec, during which trade issues were paramount, ended acrimoniously when Trump tweeted that he would withdraw his support for the summit’s communique.

The communique, among other things, addressed tariffs:

“We acknowledge that free, fair and mutually beneficial trade and investment, while creating reciprocal benefits, are key engines for growth and job creation. We recommit to the conclusions on trade of the Hamburg G20 Summit, in particular, we underline the crucial role of a rules-based international trading system and continue to fight protectionism. We note the importance of bilateral, regional and plurilateral agreements being open, transparent, inclusive and WTO-consistent, and commit to working to ensure they complement the multilateral trade agreements. We commit to modernize the WTO to make it more fair as soon as possible. We strive to reduce tariff barriers, non-tariff barriers and subsidies.”

In a meeting Monday after the G7 dust had settled, German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with several leaders of multilateral agencies to stress the importance of cooperation.

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“Rising trade tensions risk a major economic impact, undermining the strongest sustained period of trade growth since the financial crisis,” WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo said in a joint statement. “They also pose a real systemic threat, risking far greater impacts in the longer term. We will continue working to resolve these tensions and to avoid further, damaging escalation which draws in new sectors, potentially harming more workers.”

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This morning in metals news, energy companies are lobbying for exemptions from the U.S. steel tariff, U.S. steel exports dropped in April compared with the previous month, and steel and iron ore prices fell by the greatest amount since March.

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Asking for Exemptions

Several U.S. energy companies are looking to win exemptions from the U.S.’s 25% steel tariff, Reuters reported.

Of the nearly 21,000 exclusion requests received by the U.S. Department of Commerce, more than 500 are related to pipes and related materials, according to the report.

U.S. Steel Exports Down in April

The U.S.’s steel exports fell by 1% in April compared to the previous month, according to American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) data cited by the Times of Northwest Indiana.

The steel export level in April, however, was up 0.5% compared with April 2017.

Steel Prices Drop

Prices of steel and iron ore fell by the greatest amount since March, according to Bloomberg, as trade tensions ratcheted up in the last week. The U.S. announced $50 billion in tariffs on Chinese imports on Friday, and President Donald Trump threatened an additional $200 billion in tariffs.

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Iron ore prices fell to a two-month low, according to the report, while LME nickel, zinc and copper all also fell.

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This past Friday, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) released the list of Chinese goods targeted for an additional 25% tariff, marking a critical step in the Trump administration’s Section 301 probe that has investigated what it perceives to be unfair Chinese trade practices.

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“We must take strong defensive actions to protect America’s leadership in technology and innovation against the unprecedented threat posed by China’s theft of our intellectual property, the forced transfer of American technology, and its cyber attacks on our computer networks,” USTR Robert Lighthizer said in a prepared statement. “China’s government is aggressively working to undermine America’s high-tech industries and our economic leadership through unfair trade practices and industrial policies like ‘Made in China 2025.’

“Technology and innovation are America’s greatest economic assets and President Trump rightfully recognizes that if we want our country to have a prosperous future, we must take a stand now to uphold fair trade and protect American competitiveness.”

The announcement comes on the heels of three days of public hearings held last month by the USTR and the Section 301 Committee, during which 121 witnesses offered testimony. In addition, more than 3,200 written submissions were sent in relation to the probe, according to the USTR release.

What is Covered in the Tariff List?

The 25% tariff covers 1,102 products in two separate tariff lines.

The first set of products, according to the USTR, includes 818 products worth approximately $34 billion. Duties will be collected on these items beginning July 6. (The full list of products in this set is available here.)

Among the metal-related products included in this list are:

  • Furnaces and ovens for the roasting, melting or other heat treatment of ores, pyrites or of metals
  • Converters of a kind used in metallurgy or in metal foundries
  • Casting machines, of a kind used in metallurgy or in metal foundries
  • Metal-rolling tube mills
  • Machine tools operated by laser, for working metal
  • Tools for working in the hand, pneumatic, rotary type, suitable for metal working
  • Machines and mechanical appliances for treating metal, including electric wire coilwinders, nesoi
  • Molds for metal or metal carbides, injection or compression types

Meanwhile, the second set comprises 284 products “identified by the interagency Section 301 Committee as benefiting from Chinese industrial policies, including the ‘Made in China 2025’ industrial policy.” (The full list of products in this set is available here.) A review and comment period on this set is forthcoming and, subsequently, a final decision from the USTR on which of these products will be subjected to the additional duty.

The products in question cover a wide range of uses, including aerospace, information and communications technology, robotics, industrial machinery, new materials, and automobiles, according to the release.

The list, however, does not include common consumer purchases, like cellphones and televisions.

Last week, China indicated it would do away with trade deals made to date with the U.S. (done with the intention of scaling back burgeoning trade tensions). In addition, it said it would respond with retaliatory tariffs should the U.S. move forward with the Section 301 duties on Chinese goods.

The U.S. launched the Section 301 investigation in August 2017 in an attempt to investigate what are perceived as unfair Chinese trade practices, particularly with reference to intellectual property theft and forced technology transfers.

The Response at Home

Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, praised the USTR decision, but said additional steps must be taken to curb the impacts of China’s alleged unfair trade practices.

“For too long, American businesses and workers have suffered devastating losses due to China’s unchecked cheating,” Paul said in a prepared statement. “These targeted tariffs are the right thing to do for our workers, our economy, and our future.

“While we support the administration’s action today, there is still much left to be done. Restricting Chinese investment, pursuing multilateral trade cases against Beijing, and defending our farmers and workers who may be unfairly targeted by Chinese retaliation must also be priorities.”

Other industries, including the domestic textiles sector, expressed support for the move, while arguing textile end products should also be included on the list of items targeted for the additional duty.

“As per our recommendation, NCTO is pleased that almost all textile machinery products were removed from the final list of tariff lines subject to immediate 301 duties because tariffs on textile machinery hinder the competitiveness of U.S. textile manufacturers,” said Auggie Tantillo, president and CEO of the National Council of Textile Organizations.

“While appreciative of today’s actions, NCTO is convinced that the Trump administration’s efforts to deter China’s unfair trade practices would be even more effective if textile and apparel end products from China were made subject to Section 301 tariffs.”

The domestic boating industry, however, was critical of the announcement, as the tariff lines include marine engines, navigational equipment and other components important to the industry. According to a release from the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), the tariffs list includes nearly 300 marine industry products.

“The U.S. recreational boating industry – a $39 billion industry that supports 650,000 American jobs – faces another setback due to the Trump Administration’s actions on trade,” NMMA President Thom Dammrich said in a prepared statement. “Today’s announcement on Section 301 tariffs once again puts our proud, uniquely American-made industry at the mercy of bad trade policies that are piling up on top of each other. Collectively, these tariffs are causing the price of raw materials and marine parts to rise rapidly and stifling U.S. boat exports.

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“The 301 tariffs compound prior trade actions that are already harming the American recreational boating industry. From Section 232 and 301 tariffs, to countervailing and anti-dumping duties, our industry is under assault on multiple fronts. These actions are already upsetting global markets and hurting American consumers, businesses, and workers.”

The Auto Care Association was also critical of the Trump administration’s decision.

“The Auto Care Association supports the administration’s efforts to protect U.S. intellectual property, but regrets that the administration has neglected to evaluate the economic harm to the cost of repair and maintenance of the family autos and the unintended consequences of trade restrictions on the average American family,” a statement on the association’s website said.