President Trump’s market rattling trade war took another turn with Tuesday’s announcement that a select group of products imported from China will not face a 10 percent increase scheduled for September. Instead the tariff increase will be delayed until December 15, 2019.
Santa Claus should be pleased because this set of approximately 550 products (out of the 3,800 facing increased tariffs), is a veritable Christmas list. It contains popular stocking stuffers like iPhones, winter gear, Toys for pets made of noncellular vulcanized rubber other than hard rubber, nativity scenes and figures, and everybody’s favorite “6-tert-Butyl-3-methyl-2,4-dinitroanisole (Musk ambrette) and other artificial musks.” Very merry, y’all. But wait, there’s more!
This latest round of tariffs – download our updated tariffs spreadsheet for the unvarnished picture – is supposed to be the trump card in the trade war, meaning all of China’s exports are covered. It’s close. There appear to be 126 categories that get a, well, categorical exemption from increased tariffs. Some of these have been on more than one proposed list only to get a last minute reprieve (twice).
The exempt list is primarily dozens of various rare earth minerals and industrial inputs for companies including raw materials that are used in steel and aluminum manufacturing. But interestingly the “get out of additional tariffs” card is played for Ibuprofen, cod (but only frozen fillets, not if it’s dried, or chilled, or in brine), tower cranes, child car seats, and “Other: Bibles, testaments, prayer books and other religious books.” Somebody caught lightning in a bottle as “Electrical Energy” imported from China is exempt. (It also doesn’t exist).
All of this, and more is in our updated tariff spreadsheet with a sortable list of all products, from China and other countries, that the Trump Administration has subjected to increased. Because remember, President Trump’s trade war with China gets the limelight, but he has also used or threatened to use tariffs to achieve trade and foreign policy goals with Turkey, India, Canada, Mexico, Korea, Guatemala, Vietnam, and on, and on.
See our Trade War Tracker deep dive and the database of tariffs to get caught up.
In case you’re wondering how we got to Christmas tariffs in August, here’s a quick refresher. Across four rounds of tariff saber rattling, the United States Trade Representative enumerated 10,953 specific Harmonized Tariff Schedule categories of products imported from China potentially subject to an additional tariff.
- Round 1 – 25% increase on $34 billion of goods (July 6, 2018)
- Round 2 – 25% increase on $16 billion of goods (August 23, 2018)
- Round 3 – $200 billion of goods set at 10% in Sept 2018 then 25% in May 2019
- And now, Round 4 – proposed 10% increase on $300 billion worth of goods set for September 1, 2019