April 15, 2020

Comments Sought on Section 301 Exclusions for China Imports Related to COVID-19

Holland & Knight Alert
Ronald A. Oleynik | Andrew K. McAllister


  • The U.S. Trade Representative is inviting comments on the removal of duties for medical-care products from China currently covered by the Section 301 tariffs.
  • Although comments will be evaluated on a rolling basis, stakeholders are encouraged to respond with their comments as soon as possible. The docket for comments will remain open until at least June 25, 2020.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has issued a call for comments regarding the possible removal of Section 301 tariffs for medical-care products from China. The request for comments on the easing of Section 301 tariffs was prompted by growing concern about the novel coronavirus pandemic. Healthcare systems across the United States are struggling to accommodate the growing number of coronavirus cases.

In response, the USTR has thus far lifted restrictions on over 200 products on three separate occasions – including ventilators and oxygen masks, breathing masks, nebulizers and other products. The notifications were published by the Office of the USTR on March 10, March 16, and March 17, 2020.

Although Section 301 tariffs were temporarily lifted on certain items, the USTR is undertaking a more formal review, including soliciting comments from the public as to whether particular products are necessary, or not, for the alleviation of medical needs.

The USTR stated that each comment "specifically must identify the particular product of concern and explain precisely how the product relates to the response to the COVID-19 outbreak." All comments must include the 10-digit Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) number and identity the particular product in terms of its functionality and physical characteristics (e.g., dimensions, material composition or other characteristics). The notice also stated that commenters may provide information concerning the producer, importer, ultimate consumer, trademarks or trade names, but stated that this information is less helpful. The USTR does not plan to hold hearings.

Although comments will be evaluated on a rolling basis, persons are encouraged to respond with their comments as soon as possible. Third parties will have the opportunity to respond to comments, and USTR encourages those interested third parties to respond to comments within three days of the posting of the original comment. The docket for comments will remain open until at least June 25, 2020.

As background, the Section 301 tariffs were originally imposed in four tranches – on June 10, 2018; Aug. 16, 2018; Sept. 28, 2018; and Aug. 20, 2019 – in response to China's unfair trade practices. The tariffs, which cover $360 billion of Chinese-origin goods, include roughly $5 billion in medical goods. USTR provided a mechanism for affected U.S. businesses and organizations to request exclusions from these tariffs; the exclusion process for the third and fourth tranches are still ongoing and will not affected by the present call for comments.

DISCLAIMER: Please note that the situation surrounding COVID-19 is evolving and that the subject matter discussed in these publications may change on a daily basis. Please contact your responsible Holland & Knight lawyer or the authors of this alert for timely advice.

Information contained in this alert is for the general education and knowledge of our readers. It is not designed to be, and should not be used as, the sole source of information when analyzing and resolving a legal problem. Moreover, the laws of each jurisdiction are different and are constantly changing. If you have specific questions regarding a particular fact situation, we urge you to consult competent legal counsel.

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