Over 100 types of plastic products, materials and equipment from China are included in a massive new round of U.S. tariffs released late July 10 and covering $200 billion worth of Chinese imports.
The Trump administration said the proposed list, which would put 10 percent tariffs on thousands of different categories of Chinese imports, is needed to increase the pressure on Beijing to change what the U.S. calls unfair trade practices.
The measure is a significant escalation of the conflict and easily tops the $50 billion in tariffs that the two countries have so far levied on each other, or are about to levy.
But the U.S. action drew a swift reaction from the plastics and petrochemical industries, with the head of the Plastics Industry Association saying the tariffs would “boomerang” and hurt manufacturing.
“This disruptive approach to trade policy endangers the gains that the $404 billion plastics industry has made as a result of this administration's achievements on comprehensive tax and regulatory reform,” said Bill Carteaux, president and CEO. “Tariffs threaten to boomerang on the very workers they're supposed to help, and will only further undermine the confidence manufacturers need to make investments in new equipment, facilities and people.”
He said the plastics industry needs a “reliable, rational approach to trade.”
As well, the American Chemistry Council urged President Donald Trump to “bring an end to this unnecessary trade war.”
"The administration's announcement of a potential 10 percent tariff on $200 billion of additional imports from China, including a significant amount of chemicals, is a stunning and unfortunate development for U.S. manufacturers and consumers," ACC said in a July 11 statement.
ACC does not believe the tariffs will change China's trading practices.
"Unilateral actions that alienate long-standing U.S. allies and close off the U.S. market to the rest of the world are not a recipe for economic growth and prosperity and are very unlikely to change China's unfair practices," ACC said. "As an industry that touches 96 percent of all manufactured goods and which has much to gain from a productive, respectful trading relationship with China, ACC and our members remain hopeful that the U.S. and China can resolve their differences and prevent further harm to U.S. manufacturers, farmers, and consumers."
The National Association of Manufacturers also criticized the U.S. decision, saying this latest round of tariffs could undermine the economic gains from the administration's tax and regulatory reform policies.
"The last thing America's manufacturing workers need is an escalating trade war," said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons. "China cheats, and manufacturers want to see China held accountable. But more tariffs like these will punish America's manufacturing workers — and could undermine our hard-won gains thanks to tax and regulatory reform."
NAM urged the Trump administration to negotiate a trade treaty with China.
But U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said the 10 percent duties, which also cover many consumer products that may also contain unlisted plastics components, are needed to put more pressure on China.
The U.S. government said the new tariffs are in response to Beijing's June 15 tariffs on $50 billion in U.S. exports, which were themselves in retaliation for President Trump's initial tariffs against China.
Lighthizer said the initial $50 billion in U.S. tariffs were aimed at goods that "benefit from China's industrial policy and forced technology transfer practices." That list includes Chinese plastics machinery and molds.
He also called this latest round of proposed tariffs targeting $200 billion of Chinese goods "an appropriate response... to obtain the elimination of China's harmful industrial policies."
"We will remain vigilant in defending the ability of our workers and businesses to compete on a fair and reciprocal basis," he said. "For over a year, the Trump administration has patiently urged China to stop its unfair practices, open its market, and engage in true market competition."
The Chinese government, however, called it "totally unacceptable" and said it would take unspecified countermeasures.
For plastics, the list includes more than 100 specific categories, including flexible tube, pipe and hose, and various PVC and other plastic tiles, flooring and furniture.
Additionally, they cover bags and boxes; building products, luggage and include some categories of plastic machinery and molds apparently not covered in previous tariffs.
The U.S. government is scheduling public hearings from Aug. 20-23.
The latest round of proposed tariffs come a few days after the U.S. government unveiled procedures for companies to apply for exclusions from the first round of tariffs, which went into effect July 6.