Trump Asked to Cut China Tariffs in Coronavirus Response

As President Donald Trump scrambles for new ways to cushion the economic blow from the fast spreading coronavirus, industry groups, lawmakers and even some government officials are reviving a previous request: cut tariffs on Chinese and other imported goods, Reuters writes.

Anti-tariff forces both outside and inside the government see the virus crisis as the biggest opportunity for rolling back at least some import taxes since a U.S.-China “Phase 1” trade deal was reached in December.

They say repealing a Trump protectionist policy could save American companies and consumers billions of dollars and send a positive signal to investors, who sent U.S. stocks down about 10% on Thursday into bear market territory.

Tariffs of up to 25% remain on some $370 billion worth of Chinese goods imports annually. U.S. importers were billed for $48.1 billion in duties on Chinese goods from the Trump administration’s “Section 301” tariffs over the past 20 months, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

“This is a tax that is fully within the authorities of the executive branch, so they can very quickly give American businesses and American consumers a tax cut by lifting the tariffs that are in place,” U.S. Representative Stephanie Murphy told Reuters on Thursday.

The Florida Democrat urged U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on Wednesday to declare a trade “detente” by removing tariffs on both Chinese and European goods to aid small and medium-sized businesses.

Lighthizer, who for three years has led the Trump administration’s efforts to impose tariffs on Chinese goods, “was not receptive to the idea” during a closed-door meeting with members of the House Ways and Means Committee, Murphy said.

The U.S.-China Business Council is also pressing for tariff reductions by both China and the United States as a way to help both economies weather coronavirus pressures.

“Both economies are suffering from a common challenge,” said USCBC President Craig Allen. “Both sides should use this as an opportunity to rein in the self-inflicted damage that tariffs cause.”

But there were differing views on tariffs within the Trump administration, Allen said, with “no clear consensus on moving forward with a tariff reduction no matter how obvious it may be that it’s in both countries’ interest.”

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