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Spanberger Urges Administration to Immediately Suspend Tariffs on Medical Supplies & Personal Protective Equipment Amid COVID-19

Since the Pandemic Began, the Congresswoman has Pressed the Administration to Coordinate the Procurement, Production, & Distribution of Personal Protective Equipment to Medical Professionals on the Front Lines of the Crisis

Henrico, April 2, 2020

HENRICO, V.A. – U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger today urged the administration to immediately suspend all tariffs on the imports of medical supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE) during the coronavirus pandemic.

In a letter sent to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and U.S. Ambassador to China Terry E. Branstad, Spanberger and 19 of her colleagues called for an immediate suspension of Section 301 tariffs on PPE and other medical supplies critical to the fight against COVID-19.

“While we continue to support American manufacturers and innovation, there simply are not enough medical supplies and PPE domestically to alleviate the burden on our healthcare system. The tariffs add substantially to costs and delays in obtaining life-saving equipment and supplies to our healthcare providers who are in a life-and-death struggle,” said Spanberger and her colleagues. “We can – and must – do more to enable those on the front lines to do their jobs effectively and without fear that they might become infected or spread the virus themselves.”

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, Spanberger has fought to secure the personal protective equipment needed by healthcare professionals on the front lines of the crisis. Last week, Spanberger urged the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to use its authorities under the Defense Production Act to provide immediate, additional supplies of PPE to nursing homes and long-term care facilities in Central Virginia and across the country.

Today’s letter was led by U.S. Representatives Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY-12) and Cindy Axne (D-IA-03).

Click here to access a PDF of the letter, and the full letter text is also printed below.

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Dear Ambassador Lighthizer and Ambassador Branstad,

We write to request that you immediately suspend all tariffs placed on all imports of medical supplies and equipment, including personal protective equipment under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 for the duration of the rapidly developing Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) recognized that tariffs on medical supplies and equipment were inappropriate when it announced on March 20 it would open a 3-month comment period for members of the public, businesses, and government agencies “to submit comments if they believe further modifications to the (Section) 301 tariffs may be necessary.”

However, we’re asking for an immediate suspension of these tariffs because we cannot afford to wait any longer. On the day the comment period was announced, there were 15,490 total cases and 201 total deaths in the United States from the coronavirus. Today, there are 209,071 total cases and 4,633 total deaths. In New York, the epicenter of the outbreak in the U.S., hospitals and healthcare systems are nearing their breaking point as the number of new cases continues to exponentially rise.

As the outbreak continues, hospitals, doctors, health care providers, and emergency management coordinators in our districts and across the nation have been sounding the alarm that their systems are being overwhelmed. Our entire healthcare infrastructure is experiencing shortages of medical supplies – like ventilators, gloves, hand sanitizer, and other essentials – and personal protective equipment (PPE) that are critical to fighting the outbreak.

While we continue to support American manufacturers and innovation, there simply are not enough medical supplies and PPE domestically to alleviate the burden on our healthcare system. The tariffs add substantially to costs and delays in obtaining life-saving equipment and supplies to our healthcare providers who are in a life-and-death struggle. We can – and must – do more to enable those on the front lines to do their jobs effectively and without fear that they might become infected or spread the virus themselves. Accordingly, we urge all of you to immediately take steps to suspend all tariffs placed on medical supplies and equipment for the duration of this public health crisis. 

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