US Announces Tariffs on $200 Billion of Chinese Imports, Including Glass

By Katy Devlin, Glass Magazine
September 20, 2018

On Sept. 17, the Office of the United States Trade Representative released a list of approximately $200-billion worth of Chinese imports that will be subject to additional tariffs. The action comes at the direction of President Trump and will take effect on Sept. 24, beginning at 10 percent and increasing to 25 percent on Jan. 1, 2019.

The list of more than 5,700 products includes float glass and fabricated glass products, such as tempered, laminated and insulating glasses, and mirrors. The list also includes related products, such as opacifiers, colors and similar preparations used in the glass industry.

“We are taking this action today as a result of the Section 301 process that the USTR has been leading for more than 12 months,” said Trump in a statement. “After a thorough study, the USTR concluded that China is engaged in numerous unfair policies and practices relating to United States technology and intellectual property—such as forcing United States companies to transfer technology to Chinese counterparts. These practices plainly constitute a grave threat to the long-term health and prosperity of the United States economy.”

In response, the Chinese government announced on Sept. 18 the addition of $60 billion of U.S. products to its import tariff list, according to a Reuters report.

The announced tariffs follow previously instituted duties on metal products—25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum. Aluminum and construction industry officials have been critical of the measures’ intended economic benefit, and uncertain about their ultimate impact on material costs, the supply chain and the health of the overall economy. “We can’t build the case that [the imposition of tariffs] is good for business; it’s not going to build our economy,” says Jeff Henderson, president, Aluminum Extruders Council. “It feels like it’s going to be disruptive.”

Other concerns have been raised about the potential impacts of the tariffs on the overall economy. “Tariffs could be a threat to the business cycle growth,” said Connor Lokar, economist, ITR Economics, during a presentation at the National Glass Association’s Glazing Executives Form, held Sept. 12 in conjunction with the 2018 GlassBuild America trade show in Las Vegas. “The idea that we can do this without a cost is just not a reality. Prices are going to increase. … That is really going to be a pressure point for the global economy.”

In addition to cost concerns, glass industry officials warn of the tariffs' potential impact on the domestic supply chain and on the ability of companies to develop accurate project bids.

“We are seeing in real time [the tariffs] affecting people’s buying decisions,” said Garret Henson, vice president, sales and marketing, Viracon. Henson spoke during the Supply Chain Panel at the Glazing Executives Forum. “The tariffs, and the risk of more tariffs, are impacting short-term supply in the market right now. You might get your glass from North America, but you might buy box spacers from overseas, or interlayers from overseas. … You can walk into someone’s office and an offshore product might be one option on the table, but they are trying to make decisions based on what might happen in three months, six months.”