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Biden Administration Considers “Reconfiguring” Section 301 Tariffs to Combat Record Inflation
On Wednesday, June 8, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told lawmakers that the Biden administration is strongly reconsidering its approach to the Section 301 tariffs placed on Chinese goods. Yellen’s comments came as the administration ponders how to balance punishing China for unfair trade practices with combating financial woes incurred by US manufacturers, while also fighting rampant inflation rates affecting wide swaths of the US economic sector.
Though Yellen did not specify how the Biden administration would change the current status of Chinese tariffs, she did say that the White House was actively considering how to “reconfigure” Section 301 to be more beneficial for US consumers. In addition, the administration is looking at revamping the existing procedures for issuing product-specific duty exclusions.
The retaliatory Section 301 tariffs, originally imposed by the Trump administration in 2018, were intended to admonish China for not respecting US intellectual property laws, hurting US national security interests, and being anti-competitive with their product pricing. The new changes increased tariffs on Chinese imports to 7.5% - 25% on approximately $300B of goods, ranging from electronics and energy products, to sporting equipment and clothing apparel. During her speech, however, Yellen argued that the resulting duties were not adequately advantageous to American consumers, and had resulted in multiple US industries bearing the brunt of the costs.
“I believe some of the tariffs [ended] up being paid by Americans, not by the Chinese,” Yellen stated, continuing on to assert that the tariffs “weren’t designed to serve our strategic interests.” A report commissioned by the American Action Forum and published on May 10 bolsters these claims, finding that the Section 301 changes cost Americans nearly $48.3B annually due to hiked tariff rates.
Yellen also told lawmakers that the tariffs were contributing to the inflation crisis currently gripping the American economy, adding that reducing the scope of the tariffs would likely mitigate its effects on US consumers. This echoed comments made by US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo on Sunday, June 5, wherein she conceded that the tariffs were contributing to the record inflation rates. Yet Yellen’s statements contradicted those made by US Trade Representative Katherine Tai, who has argued for months that the tariffs are an essential part of the Biden administration’s efforts to stymie China’s anti-competitive trade practices, highlighting the rift afflicting internal conversations within the White House. President Biden has made inflation a primary area of focus in recent weeks, however, and has vowed to leave no stone unturned in order to slow down the rise in prices.
Either way, Yellen admitted that any action on the Section 301 tariffs would only partially impact inflation rates, as the underlying causes behind the worst US price hikes in 40 years are far too complex to be remedied by a singular fix. Further details on the administration’s ultimate decision will likely become available in the coming weeks.
How Allyn Can Help
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Contributor: Jennifer Nowicki
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