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US shippers relieved by halt to Oct. 15 China tariff increase

“Finally, a ray of hope for the U.S.-China trade relationship,” said Myron Brilliant, U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s head of international affairs.

After reaching a "phase one" trade deal with China, the Trump administration halted a planned tariff increase for Oct. 15. [Photo Credit: Jim Allen/FreightWaves]

Many U.S. importers and exporters, who were dreading an October 15 increase in tariffs from 25% to 30% on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods, breathed a sigh of relief on Friday, October 11, when the Trump administration announced that it would suspend the increase. 

“Finally, a ray of hope for the U.S.-China trade relationship,” said Myron Brilliant, executive vice president and head of international affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in a statement. 

The 5% tariff increase was first announced by the White House in late August in response to China’s decision to impose new tariffs on U.S. goods and to achieve the objectives of the China Section 301 investigation. 

President Trump said on October 11 that trade talks in Washington between China’s Vice Premier Liu He and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin resulted in a “very substantial phase one deal,” which will encompass new intellectual property and financial services protections and require China to import up to $50 billion in U.S. agricultural products. 

“We are encouraged that the two sides appear to have made genuine progress on a number of critical issues,” Brilliant said. “While there remains significant work ahead to address many of the most important U.S. trade and investment priorities, we will continue to lend our full support to any and all efforts that level the playing field for American businesses.”

“The administration knows that the trade war and specifically the harmful tariffs are weakening the U.S. economy, hurting manufacturers and causing consumers to pay more for everyday items like shoes, sweaters and sporting equipment,” said Jennifer Safavian, executive vice president of government affairs for the Retail Industry Leaders Association.   

“Relief from the anticipated tariff increase is appreciated, but only a long-term agreement will alleviate the uncertainty inflicted by the trade war,” she added. “We are encouraged by the reported productive tone of the US-China talks and will continue to press the administration for a comprehensive trade deal that ends the tariffs on all product lines.” 

Rick Helfenbein, president and CEO of the American Apparel and Footwear Association, said although the president’s decision to back down on the 5% tariff increase is a relief, “the reality is that everything currently being hit with punitive tariffs is still being charged.” 

“As we have said throughout this trade war, we do not believe continuing to tax Americans gives us leverage at the negotiating table with China, and it is past time that these misguided tariffs were removed,” Helfenbein said. “The continued costs and uncertainties associated with this tariff policy mean the Grinch still has stolen our Christmas.”

So far, a separate 15% tariff on $160 billion on Chinese goods scheduled for Dec. 15 remains in effect, as well as pre-existing tariffs and recent export controls and sanctions placed on Chinese companies such as Huawei and two COSCO tanker operators.

“We urge both sides to stay at the negotiating table with the goal of lifting all tariffs and fundamentally resetting U.S.-China trade relations,” said David French, senior vice president for government relations for the National Retail Federation.

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Chris Gillis

Located in the Washington, D.C. area, Chris Gillis primarily reports on regulatory and legislative topics that impact cross-border trade. He joined American Shipper in 1994, shortly after graduating from Mount St. Mary’s College in Emmitsburg, Md., with a degree in international business and economics.