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October 14, 2022

US apparel industry’s mixed views on handling of China 301 tariffs review

The US apparel industry has mixed views on the next stage of The Office of the United States Trade Representative's Four-Year Review of China 301 Tariffs for US imports and its handling to date.

By Shemona Safaya

The United States Trade Representative (USTR) has announced the next steps of its four-year review on the Section 301 tariffs against China, following requests for continuation from the US’ domestic industries, however the US apparel industry has mixed views on the upcoming public comment part of the process and handling so far.

What is the next part of the China 301 tariffs review process?

Based on the requests the USTR received for continuation of the tariffs from representatives of domestic industries, it is now seeking public comments, consistent with the statutory directive, to consider the effectiveness of the actions in achieving the objectives of the investigation, other actions that could be taken, and the effects of the actions on the US economy, including consumers.  

As explained in a formal notice, to aid the review, USTR is seeking public comments in line with the statutory directive to consider:

  • The effectiveness of the actions in achieving the objectives of Section 301 of such action, and other actions that could be taken
  • The effects of such actions on the United States economy, including consumers. 

USTR is establishing an electronic portal, scheduled to open on 15 November that will include more detailed questions on these issues for interested persons to submit comments with respect to any aspect of the above considerations.

To facilitate the public’s preparation of comments, USTR intends to post the questions by 1 November in advance of the docket opening.   

The statutory four-year review process started in May, with representatives of domestic industries that benefit from the tariff actions being notified of the possible termination of those actions and of the opportunity for the representatives to request continuation.

The apparel industry shares its views on the 301 tariffs review’s next stage

The American Apparel & Footwear Association’s president and CEO, Steve Lamar is critical of the process and told Just Style: “It’s about time. Unfortunately there is not a public hearing and the administration has provided no information on tariff exclusions expiring in just a few weeks, fuelling the uncertainty that is crippling today’s supply chains. The industry, and in fact all Americans, deserve better.”

He also told Just Style earlier this year the AAFA was in favour of removing Section 301 tariffs on consumer goods.

The United States Fashion Industry Association (USFIA) on the other hand, remains pleased with Biden administration’s decision to look at the impact of the current tariffs in-place and is keen to take the opportunity to share its views.

The USFIA said: “We are pleased the Biden Administration is ready to take a look at the impact of the China 301 tariffs on the entire US economy, and particularly on American consumers. Continuing the 301 tariffs on consumer products covered by Lists 3 and 4A only serve to increase inflation and impose higher prices on American families and we look forward to making that case to the administration.”

Both the USFIA and the AAFA have previously described the 301 tariffs as a tax increase for the apparel industry and end consumers.

The National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO) remains in favour of 301 tariffs and was also keen to share its appreciation of the administration’s commitment to addressing China’s unfair trade practices that have undermined domestic manufacturers and workers.

Kim Glas, president and CEO of NCTO, told Just Style: “NCTO has long advocated for the 301 tariffs to remain on finished textile and apparel products from China. The Chinese government’s predatory trade practices have hurt our domestic manufacturing sector and that of our free trade agreement partners and these tariffs are a reasonable and necessary mechanism to support US jobs, offset unacceptable practices and strengthen the national economy.

“We have also strongly advocated for a fair, transparent process to remove tariffs on certain limited textile machinery, chemicals and dyes and other targeted inputs that cannot be sourced domestically to help U.S. manufacturers compete against China. NCTO and our membership will continue to actively engage in this comment process.”

Earlier this year, US apparel sector organisations took part in a public hearing for examining the impact of China’s 301 tariffs on US imports, including USFIA, AAFA and NCTO.

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