The US apparel and retail sectors are in uproar after the Biden Administration announced it is keeping Section 301 Tariffs related to Chinese imports in place on a raft of products including textiles following a four-year review.

 | May 15, 2024

US Trade Representative Katherine Tai explained: “After a thorough review of the statutory report on Section 301 tariffs, and having considered my advice, President Biden is directing me to take further action to encourage the elimination of the People’s Republic of China’s unfair technology transfer-related policies and practices that continue to burden US commerce and harm American workers and businesses.”

Modifications were taken on several products while existing tariffs on all others – including finished apparel and textiles – were maintained.

“In light of President Biden’s direction, I will be proposing modifications to the China tariffs under Section 301 to confront the PRC’s unfair policies and practices,” said Tai.

“From the beginning of the Biden-Harris Administration, I have been committed to using every lever of my office to promote American jobs and investments, and these recommendations are no different. Today, we serve our statutory goal to stop the PRC’s harmful technology transfer-related acts, policies, and practices, including its cyber intrusions and cyber theft. I take this charge seriously, and I will continue to work with my partners across sectors to ensure any action complements the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to expand opportunities for American workers and manufacturers.”

Retail and apparel industries react to tariff retention

But the news has been met with outrage from retail, apparel and textile sector trade bodies which say the tariffs cause more harm to American companies and consumers.

“Americans for Free Trade is extremely disappointed by the Biden administration’s decision to maintain the harmful Section 301 China tariffs on many non-strategic products, including consumer goods, to the detriment of American workers, consumers and businesses. The tariffs have been a failed policy attempt to change China’s behaviour. USTR and the administration must find alternative solutions to address the ongoing issues with China but also provide more opportunities for American companies to shift their supply chains,” Americans for Free Trade said in a statement.

“Throughout this process, USTR received hundreds of comments from businesses large and small that have been negatively impacted by the tariffs. It is unfortunate that these comments were ignored. Maintaining the tariffs, and even increasing them in some categories, will lead to increased prices and nullify any progress the United States has made to combat inflation.”

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the US Fashion Industry Association told Just Style it was disappointed the Biden Administration and USTR had chosen to continue to rely on higher tariffs as the only policy to force China to change its trade practices.

“Continuing the 301 tariffs on consumer products such as apparel, footwear, and travel goods raises prices for American families and contributes to inflation. Since the 301 tariffs went into effect, American businesses and consumers have been paid more than $215 billion in higher tariffs – not China.

“We need a new strategy that addresses the core issues and offers real incentives to continue the shift in supply chains away from China. We call on the Biden Administration and Congress to work together to craft a more strategic approach to holding China accountable that does not target US retailers, consumers, and our economy.”

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