US families set to pay more for Chinese goods as Washington targets fridges, bikes and handbags

Latest tariff proposal covers US$200 billion worth of products from China, many of them intended for sale on the high street

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 July, 2018, 6:03pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 July, 2018, 6:55pm

American families could find themselves worst hit if a new round of US tariffs targeting US$200 billion worth of Chinese imports comes into force later this year.

After Washington and Beijing imposed tit-for-tat tariffs of 25 per cent on US$34 billion of each other’s goods on Friday, and threatened extra duties on a further US$16 billion, the US Trade Representative’s office said on Tuesday it had begun a process to levy 10 per cent tariffs on a raft of other products, many of them consumer goods.

If all of the proposed US duties come into play – the latest are subject to a public consultation period, which ends on August 30 – the combined value of Chinese goods affected would be about half the total it sold to the US in 2017.

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While the tariffs introduced on Friday apply mostly to industrial and agricultural goods, such as farm ploughs, machine tools and communications satellites, the new ones are likely to have a significant impact on regular consumers.

Here are some of the day-to-day items included on the list:

The Big Chill

Refrigerators, freezers and air conditioners for the home are included in a broad category of 230 items targeted for the punitive tariffs.

Sales of goods from the group, whose umbrella title also includes “machinery and mechanical appliances”, accounted for almost 22 per cent of all US imports from China last year, according to figures from the United States International Trade Commission.

High-priced Handbags

American consumers bought 6.3 billion Chinese handbags, camera cases, wallets and suitcases last year. Within that category, 15 types of imported handbags, in a range of fabrics and styles, will be more expensive in the US if the new tariffs come into play.

According to US census data, China is the largest foreign supplier of leather handbags to the US by volume. The average price of a Chinese bag was US$43 in 2017.

Antiques Under Attack

Chinese antiques – defined as being more than 100 years old – is one of two subgroups in the “Works of Art” category facing the new 10 per cent tariffs. The other is the eclectic sounding “collectors’ pieces of zoological, botanical, mineralogical, historical, archaeological, numismatic or other interests”.

Of the 280 million artwork items imported to the US from China last year, antiques was by far the largest subgroup, accounting for 38 per cent of all sales, with a combined value of US$107 million.

Bad Day for Bikes and Boats

American families that enjoy the outdoor life could find themselves paying 10 per cent more for their bicycles and boats if the new tariffs take effect. The US imported US$875 million worth of Chinese bikes last year, while the combined value of Chinese shipments of sailing boats, canoes, motor and row boats (including inflatable ones), and yachts was almost US$76 million.

Additional reporting by Owen Churchill