Is Tariff Relief Finally Coming?

Last month, we posted about increasingly public comments by top administration officials that tariff relief was on the table as a means to ease runaway inflation. Since then, those comments seem to be reaching a crescendo.
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo has repeatedly indicated that tariff relief “may make sense” from a policy perspective. When asked whether the administration would consider lifting duties on Chinese imports, she said: “Steel and aluminum -- we’ve decided to keep some of those tariffs because we need to protect American workers and we need to protect our steel industry; it’s a matter of national security . . . There are other products -- household goods, bicycles -- it may make sense.”
Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has continued to suggest publicly that rolling back some of the tariffs would help ease inflation. She recently testified before lawmakers that the Biden administration is looking to “reconfigure” the tariffs. “This administration inherited a set of 301 tariffs imposed by the Trump administration that I think really weren’t designed to serve our strategic interests.”
Raimondo and Yellen have been two of the most vocal advocates of tariff relief within the administration. But organized labor and the U.S. Trade Representative seem to be standing in the way. They claim lifting tariffs would undermine USTR’s leverage in negotiating with China to change its unfair trade practices. After four years of tariffs, China has failed to deliver on meaningful structural changes, and there is no indication that they are going to play by the rules.
Despite their opposition, it seems that tariff relief is still on the table. A White House spokesperson told Politico this week: “The President is discussing with his team on ensuring that tariffs are aligned with our economic and strategic priorities, such as safeguarding the interests of workers and critical industries, advancing our national security, and not unnecessarily raising costs on Americans.”
The President can approach tariff relief in a couple ways. He can move to a broader exclusion process, which would be a step in the right direction but that would take months to yield any tangible results or take a more immediate and beneficial approach by rolling back tariffs on household and consumer goods used by American families whose paychecks are being squeezed by runaway inflation.
For four years, U.S. retailers and American families have been burdened by harmful tariffs. The time for deliberating is over. The Administration must take swift action by rolling back damaging tariffs and taking a more strategic approach to confronting China’s unfair trade practices.

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