The Trump administration could take several actions to impose or increase Section 301 tariffs on imported goods before the Jan. 20, 2021, inauguration of President-elect Biden. Nicole Bivens Collinson, president of international trade and government relations for ST&R, discussed these possibilities recently on her “Two Minutes in Trade” podcast (click here to listen to these and other episodes).
China has failed to fully meet the commitments it made in the Phase 1 trade agreement to purchase U.S. goods and is not expected to do so by the end of the year either. In addition, China has drafted a law that would authorize its coast guard to fire on foreign vessels if they are in China’s claimed waters. These two elements could be reason enough for the Trump administration to take additional actions against China.
What might those actions look like? For starters, the existing tariffs on List 4A goods could be increased from 7.5 percent to 15 percent or even 25 percent. Tariffs on List 4B goods could be imposed at the same level, especially now that imports for Christmas inventory are over. Other possibilities include expanding the number of individuals or entities sanctioned via the Entity List or the Specially Designated Nationals list, doubling taxes on foreign corporations or citizens operating in the U.S. up to 80 percent, or issuing blanket withhold release orders on goods coming from China due to forced labor concerns.
The White House is also moving toward the imposition of Section 301 tariffs on imports from France and Vietnam. Following a determination that France’s digital services tax discriminates against U.S. companies, the Office of the U.S. Representative developed a list of French goods on which to assess additional tariffs, which is currently slated to take place Jan. 6, 2021. France recently announced that it will go forward with its DST after hopes for a global agreement by the end of the year fell apart. With the first payments now due in December, it is likely the U.S. tariffs will be imposed as scheduled.
In addition, USTR investigations into Vietnam’s currency and imports of illegally harvested wood are ongoing. Public comments were due by Nov. 13 and no hearing has been scheduled. The administration could be rushing these investigations and still has time before Jan. 20 to submit products for duty assessment and implement them.
Clearly, Collinson said, the Section 301 tariff situation could get worse, and quickly. Companies that import affected goods should keep a close eye on these proceedings and be ready to take steps to ameliorate any negative impact. For more information or assistance in these areas, please contact Nicole Bivens Collinson.
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