Aluminum sheet, steel wheels not on new China tariff list

June 20, 2018
Sometimes, it’s okay to be left out—particularly when it’s a list of products about to be hit with tariffs.

Sometimes, it’s okay to be left out—particularly when it’s a list of products about to be hit with tariffs, and when those materials are critical to one’s industry.

As promised, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) on Friday published the roster of products imported from China—$50 billion worth—that will be subject to additional tariffs. This is part of the Trump administration’s response to China’s unfair trade practices related to the forced transfer of American technology and intellectual property. (The Section 301 investigation is independent of the administration's Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum imports based on national security concerns.)

Nowhere to be found in the new catalog: HTS 7606.12.30.90, otherwise known as specialty wide aluminum sheeting. This is “good news” for the trailer industry, as Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association President Jeff Sims noted in a brief email update to members after the list was posted.

TTMA had submitted comments to the USTR requesting that the sheeting, needed to fabricate roofs for trailers, be removed from list.

Among the major points, TTMA argued that imposing duties on such imports “would instantly create a sole-source, anti-competitive monopoly” for aluminum sheeting used on the vast majority of van trailers sold in the United States. Additionally, TTMA members can’t be certain that the single domestic supplier can currently produce sufficient quantities of aluminum sheeting in the required widths to manufacture the quantity of van trailers that their customers will order.

Similarly, specialty steel wheels used in the light- and medium-duty trailer market were not included in USTR list. A domestic supplier had petitioned for the wheels to be added, pointing out that with steel tariffs in place, U.S. wheel makers would be paying higher prices for material, giving Chinese competitors a tremendous cost advantage.

The National Association of Trailer Manufacturers opposed the request, arguing that steel wheels should not be included under the Section 301 conditions.

“Wheels are not a technology that confers a competitive advantage on their country of manufacture, and are almost certainly not a focus of Chinese industrial policy,” NATM notes in its filing.

The list of products issued Friday covers 1,102 separate U.S. tariff lines valued at approximately $50 billion in 2018 trade values.  This list was compiled based on extensive interagency analysis and a thorough examination of comments and testimony from interested parties, USTR said.  It generally focuses on products from industrial sectors that contribute to or benefit from the “Made in China 2025” industrial policy, which include industries such as aerospace, information and communications technology, robotics, industrial machinery, new materials, and automobiles.  The list does not include goods commonly purchased by American consumers such as cellular telephones or televisions.

This list of products consists of two sets of U.S tariff lines.  The first set contains 818 lines of the original 1,333 lines that were included on the proposed list published on April 6.  These lines cover approximately $34 billion worth of imports from China.  USTR has determined to impose an additional duty of 25 percent on these 818 product lines after having sought and received views from the public and advice from the appropriate trade advisory committees.  Customs and Border Protection will begin to collect the additional duties on July 6, 2018.

The second set contains 284 proposed tariff lines identified by the interagency Section 301 Committee as benefiting from Chinese industrial policies, including the “Made in China 2025” industrial policy.  These 284 lines, which cover approximately $16 billion worth of imports from China, will undergo further review in a public notice and comment process, including a public hearing, according to the government.  After completion of this process, USTR will issue a final determination on the products from this list that would be subject to the additional duties.