As deadlines near, Washington still hasn’t made up its mind on tariffs

WASHINGTON – President Biden’s Administration remains divided on the issue of tariffs, with some calling for their removal and some advocating for them to be kept in place.

Tariffs began in July 2018 under the Trump administration, which resulted of levies on $550 billion of goods imported annually from China. Under the statue that created the tariffs – unless the USTR receives a specific request for continuation – Section 301 actions automatically terminate at the four-year mark.

That time has come. In May, the USTR began a review, opening a window for comments from the public until July 5. A separate deadline for an additional round of tariffs that began in August 2018 will come next month.

More than 400 requests to keep tariffs in place have been submitted as of this week. Among those in favor of keeping them are 24 labor unions, which make up a key constituency for Biden. Conversely, the National Retail Federation urged Biden for a reduction or removal in May.

The President and his team are divided on the issue. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has made it clear she wants a reduction or removal. U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai is more staunch on leaving them in place.

Early this week, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the administration hadn’t made up its mind.

“There are a lot of different elements to this, especially since the previous administration imposed these tariffs in such a haphazard way, in a non-strategic way,” she said. “So we want to make sure that we have the right approach. And again, his team is talking, is figuring it out, and they’re talking through this.”

Jean-Pierre declined to offer a timeframe according to Reuters, saying the President needs to be speak with China’s president Xi Jinping first. That call has yet to be scheduled.

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