Politico Pro: Moderate Dems press Biden to lift tariffs to ease inflation

POLITICO PRO, GAVIN BADE

A group of moderate Democratic lawmakers are the latest group to press President Joe Biden to ease some tariffs to help address runaway inflation.

Six House Democrats wrote to Biden on Friday, asking him to lift at least some of the Trump-era tariffs on imports from China and other nations, particularly products used in shipping and transportation, which they say are driving up costs for consumers.

“Shortages of shipping containers and chassis are among the challenges contributing to rising shipping and transportation costs,” wrote Reps. Abigail Spanberger (Va.), Kim Schrier (Wash.), Marilyn Strickland (Wash.), Chrissy Houlahan (Penn.), Susan Wild (Penn.) and Scott Peters (Calif.). “Other products that are critical to shipping logistics, such as various train and truck parts, are also impacted by Section 301 tariffs, exacerbating shortages and driving up shipping costs,” they added.

The request from members of Biden’s own party — all members of the moderate New Democrat Coalition and several facing competitive reelections — comes amid months of White House deliberations over what to do with former President Trump’s tariffs on $370 billion worth of Chinese imports. The Treasury and Commerce Departments, backed by industry groups, have urged tariff relief, while U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, alongside labor groups, have pushed to retain most of them.

USTR has already granted exclusions to a narrow set of 352 products, but the lawmakers say tariffs remain on some goods critical for the logistics economy. The administration has since said it would consider expanding that exclusion process, and the lawmakers asked for a “timely” update to those efforts, as well as a report to Congress on high-tariff goods that have seen recent price increases.

At a hearing earlier this week, Tai told lawmakers that the president still has not made a decision on what to do with the tariffs, saying next steps “are pending with him right now.”

“We in the Biden administration are moving forward with respect to the entire China trade relationship, including the tariffs and requests for an exclusion process, with a deliberativeness to ensure that any exclusion processes that we implement, and have implemented, are fair, transparent, administrable and give our stakeholders the opportunity to make their case for relief,” Tai told lawmakers.

The lawmakers’ request for targeted relief for logistics and transportation also comes after messaging from the administration that the tariff decision will not be an all-or-nothing choice. Last week, a National Security Council official told POLITICO the question is more about which industries will receive tariff relief — likely consumer goods — and which will see duties extended or increased, like semiconductors and other high-tech products that the Chinese government supports with subsides.

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