AFT, which is a coalition of US businesses, trade organisations and workers united against tariffs, said it appreciates the short-term extension of the China Section 301 tariff exclusions by USTR to 31 May 2024.

AFT’s official statement reads: “These exclusions are needed to provide economic relief for American businesses, especially during a time of unprecedented disruptions to global supply chains.”

However, the coalition added it is “frustrated” the USTR announced the short-term extension with little notice as it makes it difficult for businesses to plan.

It continued: “We strongly urge USTR not to sunset the exclusions as indicated and again call upon the agency to provide more advance notice regarding the existing exclusions as well as provide a robust and transparent exclusion process for all products that continue to be subject to the China Section 301 tariffs.”

The tariff, which was last extended in December 2022 was originally set to expire on 31 December 2023, however these exclusions will now remain in effect until 31 May 2024.

The USTR explained its extension will enable the orderly review of the exclusions consistent with statutory factors and objectives to identify in which cases additional time would enable shifts in sourcing to the United States or third countries. The extension will also facilitate the alignment of further decisions on these exclusions with the ongoing four-year review.

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The USTR also pointed out a docket for public comments on existing exclusions will be available from 22 January 2024 and will close on 21 February 2024.

Despite the opportunity to comment on the extension, AFT noted that USTR must ensure every action it takes under its Section 301 authority is transparent and offer stakeholders the chance to comment on the results of the review.

AFT is “disappointed” with USTR’s delay in announcing the results of the four-year review that was initiated in May 2022, despite receiving hundreds of comments from large and small businesses that have been negatively impacted by the tariffs.

The coalition explained: “It is imperative that USTR announce the results of the review promptly to provide American businesses, workers and consumers with certainty and predictability in their supply chains.”

It added that if USTR continues this unsuccessful tariff policy it will impede the progress the US has made in fighting inflation and lead to “more dislocation, inefficiencies, and potentially job loss across the economy.”

University of Delaware’s associate professor of fashion and apparel studies, Dr Sheng Lu predicted back in January 2023 that USTR may reinstate the Section 301 tariff exclusion process “to create certain policy flexibilities as the frustrations and pressures from the business community continue to build.”