On April 3, 2018, United States Trade Representative (USTR) Robert E. Lighthizer proposed imposing increased tariffs on about 1,300 different Chinese products imported into the United States. USTR Lighthizer took this action pursuant to section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 (19 U.S.C. § 2411) and the direction of the President set forth in a memorandum of March 22, 2018.

The April 3 announcement is the latest step in a process that began last August, when the President instructed the USTR to determine whether to investigate “laws, policies, practices, or actions of the Government of China that may be unreasonable or discriminatory and that may be harming American intellectual property rights, innovation, or technology development.” The USTR undertook that investigation, which resulted in a report issued on March 22, 2018, available here. The report found that China uses foreign ownership restrictions, technology regulations, and investment in and acquisition of U.S. companies to obtain technology transfers and intellectual property rights from U.S. companies. The report also found that China “conducts and supports unauthorized intrusions into, and theft from, the computer networks of U.S. companies to access their sensitive commercial information and trade secrets.”

In light of the findings in the March 22 report, the USTR proposes to impose additional import tariffs of 25% ad valorem on certain products of China imported into the United States. These tariffs would be imposed on top of any other tariffs otherwise imposed on such imports. The list of targeted products, available here, is wide ranging. According to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the products represent approximately $50 billion in imports into the United States. The Office states further that the targets were chosen so as to focus on products that “benefit from China’s industrial plans while minimizing the impact on the U.S. economy.”

Before finalizing the list of Chinese products subject to additional tariffs, the USTR will receive written comments from interested parties and hold a public hearing. Relevant deadlines are:

  • April 23, 2018: Deadline for filing requests to appear at hearing and summary of expected testimony.
  • May 11, 2018: Deadline for submission of written comments.
  • May 15, 2018: Public hearing.
  • May 22, 2018: Deadline for submission of post-hearing rebuttal comments.

There is no deadline for the USTR to make a final determination on products subject to additional tariffs following the hearing and comment period. The final list could include some or all of the products on the April 3 list, as well as additional products.