U.S. Section 301 Tariffs

Background Information on Section 301

Actionable conduct under section 301(b)(1) includes, acts, policies and practices of a foreign country that are unreasonable or discriminatory, and which burden or restrict U.S. commerce.

Unreasonable actions are those that while not necessarily in violation of, or inconsistent with, the international legal rights of the United States are otherwise viewed as unfair and/or inequitable.

These provisions exist as safeguards for any WTO member who feels its economy is being damaged by such conduct of another country. 

The current section 301 duties have therefore been premised on acts, policies, and practices of the Government of China as they relate to technology transfer, intellectual property, and innovation. 

In August of 2017, as a prelude to these section 301 duties, the President called for the USTR to undertake a section 301 investigation.  The USTR's Section 301 Report (3/2017) documented the already widely-appreciated conclusion that China’s acts, policies, and practices do involve harmful acquisition of U.S. technologies, and noted that these practices are also important elements of China’s ‘‘Made in China 2025’’ policies.

Following the report, President Trump issues a Presidential Memorandum announcement on March 22, 2018, describing the range of actions that the United States would pursue in response, and directing the USTR to compile the first list of tariff items against which 25% ad valorem duties would be assessed.

 

USTR's LIST 1

On April 3, the USTR released its Notice on the proposed strategy to confront the discriminatory technology transfer and intellectual property practices of China which followed on the President's Memorandum of March 22.   The Notice provided a proposed list of  1,300 separate tariff lines against which the 25% section 301 duties would be imposed on goods from China, including industries such as aerospace, information technology, communications, metals, and machinery. The response and hearing deadlines were set out, as follows:

  • April 23, 2018: Due date for filing requests to appear and a summary of expected testimony at the public hearing and for filing pre-hearing submissions.
  • May 11, 2018: Due date for submission of written comments.
  • May 15, 2018: The Section 301 Committee will convene a public hearing in the main hearing room of the U.S. International Trade Commission, 500 E Street SW Washington DC 20436 beginning at 10:00 am.
  • May 22, 2018: Due date for submission of post-hearing rebuttal comments.

Following that activity, the USTR analyzed these comments, and published a final determination on the tariff action (known as LIST 1).

On May 19, the White House released a joint statement (with the government of China) regarding the status of trade consultations, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has stated that the administration is “putting the trade war on hold.”   That "cease-fire" failed to hold and by May 29, a White House Statement set a deadline of June 15 for the announcement of the final section 301 percent tariffs.  The USTR then faithfully issued the revised LIST 1 and the 25% duties went into effect on July 6, 2018.   (LIST 1 represented a reduction of the original proposal based on numerous comments received.  In total, 515 product lines were removed from the original 1,333 lines.

China's retaliatory duties were swiftly announced to negate the US action.  Accordingly, on June 15th, the White House pledged to add another round of duties to compensate (LIST 2).

 

USTR's LIST 2

On June, 14, 2018, President Trump gave a green light to the USTR's release of the second list of additional 301 tariffs as a response to China's retaliatory duties.  The second proposed list (LIST 2) contained 284 additional tariff lines and the announced schedule set out the dates for comments to the proposed LIST 2, as follows:

  • June 29, 2018: Due date for filing requests to appear and a summary of expected testimony at the public hearing and for filing pre-hearing submissions.
  • July 23, 2018: Due date for submission of written comments.
  • July 24, 2018: The Section 301 Committee will convene a public hearing in the main hearing room of the U.S. International Trade Commission, 500 E Street SW Washington, DC 20436 beginning at 9:30 a.m.
  • July 31, 2018: Due date for submission of post-hearing rebuttal comments.

 

USTR's LIST 3

On July 11, 2018, the USTR released the third list of 6,000+ tariff lines in response to China's continued retaliation.  LIST 3 is estimated to represent $200 billion in inbound China-U.S. trade.  Whereas lists 1 and 2 provided for 25% tariffs, LIST 3 de-escalates the conflict by imposing only 10% rates.

Per the Federal Register publication, the follows deadlines will apply to the proposed third list:

  • July 27, 2018: Due date for filing requests to appear and a summary of expected testimony at the public hearing, and for filing pre-hearing submissions.
  • August 17, 2018: Due date for submission of written comments.
  • August 20-23, 2018: The Section 301 Committee will convene a public hearing in the main hearing room of the U.S. International Trade Commission, 500 E Street SW, Washington DC, 20436 beginning at 9:30 am.
  • August 30, 2018: Due date for submission of post-hearing rebuttal comments

 

Advanced Reading:

Council on Foreign Relations: U.S.-China Trade War: How we got here (2018) 

Office of Trade Manufacturing Policy: How China’s Economic Aggression Threatens the Technologies and Intellectual Property of the United States and the World (2018)

Hudson Institute: Peter Navarro (Video) explains China's Economic Aggression (2018)

Lou Dobs (video): Peter Navarro on China Tariffs (June 2018)

Council on Foreign Relations: The IMF's China Problem (2017)

Economics: The Importance of Current Account Deficits

Economist:  China's Demographic divisions are getting deeper (2017)

Financial Times: China's mixed messages to working women (2017)

WSJ: China's 9-9-6 formula (2017)

Financial Times (video): The end of the Chinese Economic miracle (2016)

TED: Kevin Rudd: Are the China and the US doomed to conflict? (2015)

The Atlantic: The Thucydides Trap: Are the U.S. and China Headed for War?

Peter Navarro: Death by China (2012)

 

Foreign Policy: How the US is encircling China with Military bases (2013)

The Asia-Pacific Journal: The US ‘Pivot to Asia’ (2014)

Newsweek: China Reveals New...Military Bases (2018)

South China Morning Post: China has built 7 new military bases in the South China Sea (2018)

Vox (video): Cabbage and Air Identification strategies to take over S. China Sea (2018)

 

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CURATED  HISTORY OF SECTION 301 EVENTS:

July 11, 2018: USTR:  Third list released.  (the 6,000+ tariff lines are estimated to comprise $200 billion in inbound goods from China).

July 11, 2018:  Senate rebukes POTUS trade war (88-to-11).

June 28, 2018: CBP: CSMS #18-000409: Section 301 Trade Remedies to be Assessed on Certain Products from China Effective July 6.

June 28, 2018: USTR: Voices rebuttal statement against retaliatory duties.

June 28, 2018: White House report cites "Chinese Economic aggression."

June 15, 2018:  White House: Statement: U.S. will pursue additional duties to compensate for China's Retaliation.

June, 14, 2018: President gives green light to 301 tariffs on $50B Chinese goods; China vows a response in kind. 

USTR issued LIST 1 representing the a final list of products against which duties will go into effect on July 6, 2018.   (The list represents the reduction of the original proposed list based on comments received.  515 product lines were removed from the original 1,333 lines.)

A second proposed list (LIST 2) has been released containing 284 newly proposed tariff lines. 

June 9, 2018:  After G-7, Canada pledges to retaliate against the United States tariffs on steel and aluminum products in defense of Canadian workers, leading President Trump to issue 2 caustic tweets:

  • "Based on Justin’s false statements at his news conference, and the fact that Canada is charging massive Tariffs to our U.S. farmers, workers and companies, I have instructed our U.S. Reps not to endorse the Communique as we look at Tariffs on automobiles flooding the U.S. Market!” Mr. Trump wrote."
  • “PM Justin Trudeau of Canada acted so meek and mild during our @g7 meetings, only to give a news conference after I left saying that, ‘US Tariffs were kind of insulting’ and he ‘will not be pushed around.’ Very dishonest & weak. Our Tariffs are in response to his of 270% on dairy!”

Meanwhile, despite the trade war, the National Retail Federation expects record imports (further exacerbating the trade deficit).

May 31, 2018: China cuts tariffs on 1,449 categories of goods from most favored nations will be reduced by an overall average of about 60 percent.  China also announced a new negative list will be published by June 30 possibly reducing investment barriers.

May 30, 2018: Trilateral meeting: Japan, US, EU: Joint Statement against China's forced technology transfers and forced investments.

May 29, 2018: POTUS: White House Statement: Section 301 tariffs to be finalized, despite US-China discussions.

May 19, 2018:  United States and China:  Joint Statement Regarding Trade Consultations

April 23, 2018: Customs: CSMS #18-000301: Allows CBP 300 days to reject entries subject to sec. 232 & sec. 301. 

April 12, 2018:  POTUS proposes rejoining TPP.

April 11, 2018: Senator Grassley (R-Iowa) quote following trip to China: [China] “will do anything legal or illegal, moral or immoral, ethical or unethical ... to get ahead and stay ahead.”  Lawmakers calling for TPP and NAFTA as bulwarks.

April 6, 2018: POTUS: Statement on China Trade War: directing USTR to look at additional tariffs and to plan for the protection of US industry (farmers).

April 5, 2018:  Reuters: China tariffs to go into effect Monday.

April 3, 2018: USTR Notice of Determination and Request for Public Comment re: Section 301 List of Products against which duties may be applied.

March 22, 2018, POTUS: Memorandum announces the section 301 process. 

March 22, 2018: USTR: Report on section 301 investigation and executive summary and fact sheet.

October 10, 2017: USTR: Section 301 Investigation Hearing and witness list.

August 24, 2017: USTR announces a section 301 investigation on China's practices on Technology Transfer, Intellectual Property, and Innovation.

August 14, 2017: POTUS:  Memorandum calling for section 301 investigation.