The U.S. has exempted another 437 types of products from China from the tariffs Washington had previously threatened to impose on them, in the latest sign that the combatants in the Sino-American trade war are getting a little gun-shy.
According to documents posted on the website of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative on Friday, the agency has granted temporary exemptions to hundreds of products that had previously been slated to have tariffs of between 10 and 25 per cent imposed on them under proclamations that U.S. President Donald Trump has made in recent months.
The products run the gamut from consumer products such as lamp shades, Christmas lights, coffee filters, dog leashes and bicycles to industrial products such as electric motors and generators, all the way to highly sophisticated technology components such as ultrasonic scanners and MRI parts.
According to Chinese media outlet CCTV, the entire list covers about one-eighth — or less than 13 per cent — of the original list of $250 billion worth of Chinese goods that Trump had targeted in his trade war earlier this year.
Trump has been putting tariffs — taxes imposed on importers when they bring goods into the country — on Chinese goods as a way of trying to pressure Beijing into balancing the trade relationship between the two countries.
His latest round of tariffs were set to kick in on Oct. 15, but Friday’s news means the 437 items on the exemption list won’t have any tariffs imposed on them on that date. The USTR documents make it clear, however, that the exemptions are not permanent, which leaves the door open to reimposing them later on.
The move comes as U.S. and Chinese negotiators had face-to-face talks in Washington this week. With another round of tariffs set to be implemented soon, strategist Chris Krueger of Cowan Research Group said “we would interpret another delay as a goodwill gesture.”
Last week, China made such a gesture of its own by exempting 16 different types of U.S. agricultural products, including soybeans and pork, from its own import levies, a move that Krueger described as “the quid for the quo of some tariff relief.”
“All of this could go sideways [again],” he said, but added that even such a modest rapprochement on the trade file could be “a signal that the trade war is entering into a frozen conflict.”