GUEST COLUMN: Congress must not weaken China’s tariffs | Opinion

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Russia’s invasion of Ukraine signals the emergence of a potentially troubling new world order. This is partly because China is actively aiding and abetting Russia’s invasion. This should ring alarm bells in Washington, since Beijing has made clear its utter disregard for democratic standards.

In response, Congress must expedite its pending Chinese legislation – and ensure that tariffs on Chinese imports are not weakened.

For decades, the United States has maintained the most open consumer market in the world. Not only does the United States import literally trillions of dollars worth of goods each year, but it also imposes some of the lowest tariffs of any industrialized country.

Unfortunately, China has spent the last 20 years profiting from this generosity. It’s a situation that finally came to a head in 2018, when the Trump administration imposed “Section 301” tariffs to punish China for its longstanding intellectual property theft and other aggressive practices.

As polls show, US consumers are OK with the tariffs and don’t want to buy Chinese products. But unscrupulous importers have gone the other way and continue to try to evade Chinese tariffs.

Section 301 included an “exclusion process” allowing importers to request relief from customs duties on products they claim are not available in the United States. After the introduction of tariffs in 2018, importers sought numerous exclusions.

In the four years since, importers have had plenty of time to move supply chains from China. Instead, they are now urging Congress to weaken China’s current tariffs.

This shouldn’t come as a total surprise though, as the tariff exclusion process is rife with abuse. The Coalition for a Prosperous America (CPA) recently studied the claims of many importers seeking tariff relief. CPA has found that, for many of the products in question, options made in the United States exist. However, importers do not mention it in their petitions. Instead, they argue for more imports. Some even say they’re asking for tariff relief because of “previous investments in developing (their) manufacturing base in China.”

Recently, the House passed the America COMPETES Act of 2022 – legislation intended to strengthen the United States’ competitiveness against China. This follows a similar Chinese bill that passed the Senate last year. Unfortunately, the Senate bill would weaken 301 tariffs by reinstating exclusions and allowing tariff relief for Chinese exports facing “loss of profitability.”

China’s aggressive trade practices and its support for Russia make it clear that it is not a friendly trading partner. So it makes no sense for Congress to consider legislation that could actually weaken US trade laws — and allow China to expand its predatory trade.

Tariff exclusions should be reduced, not expanded, as importers can easily find other producers outside of China. On the contrary, the tariffs should be expanded, as they aim to make US supply chains less dependent on China.

Congress should reject efforts to weaken 301 tariffs or allow bogus tariff exclusions.

It’s time to bring American manufacturing back through strong legislation.

Michael Stumo is CEO of the Coalition for a Prosperous America (CPA). Follow him @michael_stumo

Michael Stumo is CEO of the Coalition for a Prosperous America (CPA). Follow him @michael_stumo

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