The Trump administration would be obligated to consider excluding more products from its China tariffs under a spending bill introduced early Thursday morning that is needed to avert a federal government shutdown.
The government funding bill would require the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office, or USTR, to create a process for private businesses, trade groups, and others to formally request a product be excluded from the tariffs, something the Trump administration has previously resisted doing.
The spending legislation requires the USTR to “establish an exclusion process for tariffs imposed on goods subject” to future China tariffs, according to an explanation posted by Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., the chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee.
The administration would have 30 days to set the process up.
Getting an exclusion process added is a win for trade groups who have fought to expand the exclusion process. Overall, the Trump administration has hit $250 billion worth of Chinese products with tariffs as part of its ongoing trade war with Beijing. It has allowed businesses and trade associations to object to particular items included in the first $50 billion worth of products and granted exclusions on a case-by-case basis. The administration has not created a process for requesting exemptions from the remaining $200 billion worth of goods, however.
Administration officials have declined to discuss why the process was limited, though the widely held assumption is it doesn’t want the tariffs’ impact to be weakened. A USTR spokesman declined to comment, and a White House spokesman could not be reached.
The provision would simply extend the process for the first $50 billion in products to include the remaining $200 billion. To be excluded, a product has to be shown to be only available from China, to have no comparable product available domestically, and be unrelated to Beijing’s “Made in China 2025” industrial policy.
The spending bill also includes language to force the Commerce Department to provide detailed quarterly reports to Congress regarding the exclusions granted from the administration’s steel and aluminum tariffs.