The Trump administration today (15 June) released a list of products imported from China that will be hit with an additional 25% tariff – but to the relief of US industry has removed most of the equipment and machinery used in domestic textile, apparel, and footwear manufacturing that had been originally proposed.

The tariffs on $50bn of Chinese imports were first outlined by the administration in April following a Section 301 investigation into unfair Chinese technology and intellectual property policies and practices.

Apparel and footwear were not included on the list, and almost all textile and footwear machinery products originally under consideration have now been removed from the final list of tariff lines subject to immediate 301 duties. 

Items on the final list include:

  • Cylinders for textile calendering or rolling machines;
  • Machines for extruding, drawing, texturing or cutting man-made textile materials;
  • Moulds for rubber or plastics, injection or compression types, for shoe machinery;
  • Injection-moulding machines for manufacturing shoes of rubber or plastics.

Applauding the decision to exclude most textile and footwear machinery, Rick Helfenbein, president and CEO at the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA), says: "Levying a tariff on these items would have increased costs for domestic manufacturers across our industry, leading to higher prices and lower sales."

However, he adds: "At the same time, we remain deeply concerned. Any new tariffs present an immense burden for the American people. Further, China has already made clear that it will retaliate swiftly."

China previously identified almost $1 billion worth of American cotton exports to China as a target, "which will hurt American farmers and US textile manufacturers, and add costs to our supply chains. Finally, ramping up tariffs doesn't help bilateral trade talks reach a successful conclusion. It's hard to see how anyone benefits from this."

Helfenbein continues: "President Trump is fixated with tariffs, which he believes he can wield freely; but there are grave consequences to the use of tariffs. Congress needs to step in now to end this dangerous obsession. Tariffs are nothing but a hidden, regressive tax, plain and simple.

"The tariffs imposed on products imported by American businesses – and the resulting retaliatory tariffs against exports made by American manufacturers and farmers – amount to a huge 'Trump Tax' on American workers, American consumers, and the American economy. We urge Congress to use its Article 1, Section 8 powers provided by the US Constitution to regulate commerce with foreign nations."

Matthew Shay, president and CEO at the National Retail Federation (NRF) concurs: "These tariffs won't reduce or eliminate China's abusive trade practices, but they will strain the budgets of working families by raising consumer prices.

"Once again, we urge the administration to change course and develop a clear and comprehensive strategy to hold China accountable."

A study commissioned by NRF and the Consumer Technology Association found that tariffs on $50bn of Chinese imports, coupled with the impact of retaliation, would lead to four job losses for every job gained and reduce US gross domestic product by nearly $3bn.

The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) says the tariffs focus on Chinese imports containing industrially significant technologies, including those related to China's 'Made in China 2025' industrial policy. This includes industries such as aerospace, information and communications technology, robotics, industrial machinery, new materials, and automobiles.

"Technology and innovation are America's greatest economic assets and President Trump rightfully recognises that if we want our country to have a prosperous future, we must take a stand now to uphold fair trade and protect American competitiveness," said Ambassador Robert Lighthizer.

Customs and Border Protection will begin to collect the additional duties on 6 July 2018, according to a USTR statement.

US apparel groups last month made their case against tariffs, raising concerns over disruption to supply chains, higher prices for back-to-school and holiday merchandise, and the negative impact on American consumers and businesses.

A second and larger list of additional goods, collectively valued at $100bn, is also under consideration – and fears remain that apparel and footwear may be included if the tariff increases are extended to additional products imported from China.

Indeed, the National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO) has again called on the Trump administration to include finished textile and apparel products on any future lists of imports from China to be made subject to Section 301 tariffs.

"While appreciative of today's actions, NCTO is convinced that the Trump administration's efforts to deter China's unfair trade practices would be even more effective if textile and apparel end products from China were made subject to Section 301 tariffs," says NCTO president and CEO Auggie Tantillo.