U.S. business groups are again calling for relief from Section 301 tariffs as the total assessed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection nears $100 billion. Congress is moving toward providing such relief but the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative has yet to indicate whether or when it might act.

CBP reports that as of mid-July it had assessed $96.4 billion in Section 301 tariffs on imports from China in the three years since they were first imposed, along with $1.1 billion in Section 301 tariffs on imports from European Union member countries in a longstanding dispute over aircraft subsidies. CBP also reported assessments of $8.3 billion and $2.6 billion in Section 232 national security-related tariffs on steel and aluminum products, respectively, and Section 201 import safeguard tariffs of $2.6 billion on solar panels, $260.1 million on washing machines, and $2.5 million on washing machine parts.

On June 8 the Senate approved legislation that, among other things, would establish a new process for granting exclusions from the China 301 tariffs and require USTR to reinstate all exclusions from such tariffs for entries filed on or before Dec. 31, 2022.

In a recent letter to leaders of the House of Representatives, more than 150 business groups urged the House to follow the Senate’s lead. The letter cited a private-sector report finding that China has absorbed only 7.6 percent of the impact of the Section 301 tariffs, “while the rest of the tab was picked up by Americans.” U.S. businesses are therefore “in urgent need of relief right now,” the letter said, but they have not seen it from USTR, which has yet to use its statutory authority to reinstate expired exclusions or reinvigorate the exclusion process and may not address the issue at all until its ongoing China trade policy review concludes. As a result, the letter urged the House to include the Senate-passed language, “with technical corrections as needed, in any appropriate upcoming legislative vehicles.”

The initiative appeared to get a boost from comments from Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. “Tariffs are taxes on consumers,” she said in an interview with The New York Times. “In some cases it seems to me what we did [the China Section 301 tariffs] hurt American consumers, and the type of deal that the prior administration negotiated didn’t really address in many ways the fundamental problems we have with China.”

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