May 4, 2020 / 9:45 PM / a month ago

U.S. coronavirus tariff exemptions sought for robots, drones, elevators

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Major U.S. firms and trade groups want the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office to waive tariffs on a wide range of Chinese-made products as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, including drones, robots, personal computers and 3D printers.

FILE PHOTO: Chinese and U.S. flags flutter near The Bund, before U.S. trade delegation meet their Chinese counterparts for talks in Shanghai, China July 30, 2019. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo

In March, USTR said it would not impose tariffs on ventilators, oxygen masks, and nebulizers after previously granting exclusions on a large number of health-related products. At the time, the agency opened a docket for businesses and others to raise concerns about existing tariffs “relevant to the medical response to the coronavirus.”

The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) and several other industry bodies said in letters made public on Monday that the waivers should be far broader than those directly related to COVID-19 medical care.

Tariff waivers should be granted for sensors and cameras used by doctors to provide telehealth services, robots that can sterilize infected surfaces, 3D printers, drones that can deliver medical supplies, wireless hotspots and laptops for schoolchildren and networking equipment in data centers, for example, CTA said.

“These tariffs are not only a barrier to the entry of necessary products, they are a tax on businesses and consumers that has become ever more harmful as many enter ‘survival mode,’” the group wrote USTR.

The National Elevator Industry asked USTR to lift duties on elevator and escalator parts and components that are “essential to the functions of healthcare facilities, hospitals and medical equipment factories.”

Tariffs should be waived on personal computers, monitors, printers, ink, toner, workstations, servers and other electronics because they are used by all essential critical infrastructure workers, including doctors and nurses, the Computing Technology Industry Association said.

The American Chemistry Council asked that tariffs be waived on essential inputs into U.S. manufacturing of cleaning and disinfectant products, material used in making personal protective equipment, packaging and wipes, and chemicals used in the U.S. manufacturing of cough and cold medicines.

The American Apparel & Footwear Association asked USTR to expand an exemption to include reusable masks, while a software group asked for waivers for networking equipment used to support connectivity within healthcare and other fields.

Hilo Industries LLC asked USTR to waive tariffs on hand sanitizer. Other firms have asked for tariffs to be waived on hand dryers used in commercial buildings.

USTR did not respond to a request for comment.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall

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