U.S. excludes Chinese face masks, medical gear from tariffs as coronavirus spreads

FILE PHOTO: Raymond Determann, a King County Metro equipment service worker, sprays a Virex solution to sanitize buses against the coronavirus in Seattle, Washington, U.S. March 5, 2020. REUTERS/Jason Redmond

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Trade Representative’s office in recent days granted exclusions from import tariffs for dozens of medical products imported from China, including face masks, hand sanitizing wipes and examination gloves, filings with the agency showed on Friday.

Many of the exclusion requests for medical products appear to have been expedited amid the rapidly spreading coronavirus outbreak, with approvals granted just over one month past a Jan. 31 application deadline.

Requests to exclude other products from President Donald Trump’s Section 301 tariffs on Chinese goods have taken months. Apple Inc’s requests for exclusions on products from AirPod headphones to the HomePod smart speaker filed on Oct. 31 are still pending.

Medline International Inc has already received exclusions on 30 products ranging from surgical gowns to face masks and medicine cups, most of which the company applied for at the end of January. A number of the exclusions were granted on Thursday, USTR documents showed.

The products were included in a fourth round of tariffs on Chinese goods imposed by Trump on Sept. 1, 2019, amid heated U.S.-China trade negotiations.

The tariff rate on the medical products was initially set at 15%, but was lowered to 7.5% on Feb. 15 as part of the Phase 1 U.S.-China trade agreement. The deal leaves in place tariffs on about $370 billion worth of imports from China, including 25% duties on goods valued at around $250 billion.

Reporting by David Lawder; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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