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US extending tariff exemptions on medical products from China

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The United States (US) is extending for another six months exemptions from punitive tariffs for some medical products from China, the US Trade Representative (USTR) announced on Friday.

The exclusions from import duties, set to expire on Tuesday, “cover 81 medical-care products needed to address the Covid-19 pandemic”, USTR said.

The exemptions were first announced in December 2020 and extended once in November.

Products on the list include pump bottles for hand sanitiser, plastic containers for sanitising wipes, fingertip pulse oximeters, blood pressure monitors, MRI machines and X-ray tables.

The trade conflict between the US and China began when then-president Donald Trump imposed tariffs on USD350 billion worth of Chinese products, citing what he called unfair trade practices and theft of US technology and intellectual property.

With inflation at its highest level in more than four decades, President Joe Biden is under pressure to end so-called “Section 301” tariffs, many of which are due to lapse in July.

USTR officials have said they are reaching out to businesses and the public to seek comment on whether to extend the tariffs.

Washington and Beijing in January 2020 signed a so-called “phase one” trade agreement under which Beijing pledged to increase its purchases of American products and services by at least USD200 billion over 2020 and 2021 – but the target was not met amid the COVID-19 pandemic.