By Lenore Fedow
The United States is suspending tariffs on select goods for 90 days as businesses struggle amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Washington—In light of the financial hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States is suspending tariff payments on certain imported goods, but the measure fell short of what some were expecting.

The payment delay does not extend to tariffs on goods from China or steel and aluminum imports.

Diamonds, pearls, precious stones, synthetic precious stones and silver jewelry were on the list of products imported from China that are subject to tariffs as of August 2019.
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In a joint statement Saturday, the U.S. Treasury Department and Customs and Border Protection announced that some companies will be allowed to delay tariff payments for 90 days on certain goods imported in March and April.

To qualify for the delay, U.S. importers will need to “demonstrate a significant financial hardship” and have fully or partially suspended operations in March or April as a result of “orders from a competent governmental authority limiting commerce, travel, or group meetings.”

The importer needs to show that gross receipts are less than 60 percent what they were in the same period of 2019.

“By postponing the deadline to deposit certain duties, taxes, and fees for 90 days, we are providing much-needed relief to affected businesses,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a press release announcing the delay.

Matthew Shay, CEO of the National Retail Federation, said in a press release the deferral was “welcome news” to retailers during a difficult time, providing some with additional liquidity and better cash flow.

Shay added the administration should “broaden these deferrals for additional relief,” describing the challenges faced by the retail industry as “severely acute, at best.”

Some have called for a suspension of tariffs on Chinese imports, stating it could be a way to not only ease the burden on businesses, but also to combat the coronavirus by easing the medical equipment shortage.

In a press release April 9, Tariffs Hurt the Heartland, a nationwide campaign against tariffs, said the deferral of tariff duties would be “one of the most efficient actions” the Trump administration could take to help businesses survive.

The release highlighted sentiments from Mary Lovely, a professor of economics at Syracuse University and a non-resident senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, who outlined why suspending the remaining tariffs on Chinese imports could help to combat the virus.

In an opinion piece for CNN, Lovely notes that although President Trump signed a “phase one” agreement with China, there are still high tariffs on $350 billion in U.S. imports, which began taking a toll on American manufacturers and farmers months before the country was dealing with the coronavirus outbreak.

She cited a paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research that showed affected manufacturers paid estimated tariffs of about $1,600 per worker per year, funds she said could instead be directed to worker assistance and health and hygiene needs.

She said tariff rollbacks would also ease U.S.-China trade tensions and suggested that suspending tariffs may lead China to remove its retaliatory tariffs on agricultural exports.

“With Americans facing the unprecedented challenges of COVID-19 containment, and the deep recession that is expected to follow, it is time for President Trump to end a harmful policy that has outlived any usefulness,” Lovely wrote.

Some officials expressed concern about easing the current trade policies at a time when many businesses can’t afford to vie for business with international competitors.

In a tweet, Michael Wessel, a commissioner on the United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission, said: “A lot of import-sensitive domestic industries—glassware, textiles & apparel, light trucks—will face new pressures from foreign competitors, just as they are seeking to try and stay alive. Is forgiveness next?”

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told Bloomberg that the measure was “a way of helping out certain industries,” but was not indicative of a change to the president’s trade policies.

For more information about the tariff delay and other measures, visit the Treasury Department’s website.

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