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Commerce Secretary Indicates There May be Changes to China Tariffs in the Future

Apr. 27, 2021
By: Michael N. Coopersmith


During an April 22, 2021 meeting of the Advisory Committee on Supply Chain Competitiveness, Commerce Department Secretary Gina Raimondo stated that the Biden administration is currently conducting a complete review of U.S. policies towards China, which includes a review of U.S. tariffs currently imposed on Chinese goods. During the meeting Raimondo indicated that while the administration has yet to make a final decision, changes to the current tariffs may be in order upon completion of the full review.

While many have speculated as to how, if at all, the Biden administration would differ from its predecessor on the topic of tariffs, preliminary signals seem to indicate there may not be any major changes to the current trajectory for the foreseeable future. Although Raimondo hinted that changes may be on the table at some point in the future, during the meeting she seemed to indicate that the administration is in no hurry to lift or reduce tariffs. According to Raimondo, the administration believes it needs to take what she deemed to be an “aggressive” stance towards China in order to counter what the administration sees as China’s “anti-competitive actions.” These statements follow an April 1, 2021 interview in which Raimondo stated that while she feels the current China tariffs are “imperfect,” the tariffs had successfully “leveled the playing field” for American workers. It should be noted that in December of 2020 then President Elect Biden stated that he did not intend to make any immediate moves in relation to tariffs, reaffirming his desire to first consult with what he deemed to be “traditional U.S. allies in Asia and Europe.”

The topic of tariffs has remained a contentious one throughout the first several months of the Biden administration. Early in 2021 senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi called on the Biden administration to remove what he described as “unreasonable tariffs” on Chinese goods, while last week Chinese Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Xie Feng stated that economic competition between the two countries should be “more of a track-and-field competition than a life-and-death gladiatorial confrontation.” Meanwhile, nearly 4,000 court cases have been filed alleging that the Trump administration violated the law by expanding tariffs on Chinese goods beyond the scope of the initial investigation into China’s intellectual property practices. The Justice Department has so far defended the Trump era 301 tariffs, stating in part that a president’s trade policy through the U.S. Trade Representative is to be afforded substantial deference. On Friday April 23, 2021 importers challenging section 301 tariffs asked the U.S. Court of International Trade for an injunction to ensure that they can secure full refunds if the now consolidated master case is to succeed.

Despite pressure to reduce or remove tariffs, Secretary Raimondo made clear during the April 22nd Advisory Committee meeting that the Biden administration remains open to imposing and enforcing U.S. “defensive tools,” including the imposition of both tariffs and export controls if needed. At this point the future of U.S. China tariffs remains very much up in the air.

If you have any questions or would like more information about China tariffs or the ongoing 301 litigation do not hesitate to contact an attorney at Barnes, Richardson & Colburn LLP.