As concerns surrounding coronavirus (COVID-19) escalate, U.S. trade policy is aligning with the country’s medical needs. On March 10, 2020, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) announced new Section 301 exclusions for certain kinds of Chinese-origin medical products. Although the USTR previously levied Section 301 duties as high as 15 percent against these products, the announced exclusions exempt them from Section 301 duties until September 1, 2020. Significantly, the new exclusions are retroactive in nature so that entities can seek refunds of the Section 301 duties that they have paid on the excluded products dating back to September 1, 2019. Assuming the USTR continues prior procedures, it is expected that the importing community will be allowed to submit written comments to support extensions of the exclusions.
This round of exclusions follows previous rounds granted by the USTR, but it represents the first since the coronavirus has taken center stage for the Trump administration. Although the USTR did not identify the coronavirus or the nation’s healthcare infrastructure as a factor in deciding to grant certain exclusions, these most recent exclusions may have been influenced by the current medical emergency. Additionally, a prime consideration was whether a particular product is only available from China, among other reasons.