Little Impact Seen From China Export Tariffs

U.S. sourcing executives saw the move by China to place higher tariffs on its apparel and textile exports as more symbolic than substantive.

with contributions from Kristi Ellis

Commerce is evaluating a list of the export tariffs from China and will go ahead with the consultations on the surging imports, triggering safeguard quotas on the seven categories, a spokesman for the department said.

"These consultations will be undertaken by the end of May," the spokesman said, "and will represent an opportunity for discussion with the Chinese government on the measure just announced."

Other petitions for safeguards are still under consideration by the U.S. government and the groups representing domestic manufacturers have vowed to file more such requests. The European Union has also moved to restrain Chinese imports.

The quotas pack more of a punch and are more disruptive to trade than the stepped-up tariffs, said Rick Darling, president of Li & Fung USA's Global Brand Business Group.

"In the scheme of things, it's not going to have much impact certainly on the flow of trade," he said of the rising duties. "It is an effort on China's part to some cooperative effort. They're trying to stem the flow of negativism coming out of Washington."

Wilbur Ross, chairman of International Textile Group, said the country raised its tariffs "to give them a better position in the consultations" with the U.S. on safeguard quotas.

The first round of tariffs on 148 export categories, which went into effect on Jan. 1, was for a token amount of just 1 or 2 cents per garment, said Ross.

"It will be interesting to see whether this is a meaningful amount or more of a token to fend off the retaliatory moves by the U.S. and Europe," he said.

The tariffs take effect quickly for an industry that works on lead times that can exceed eight months.

"I don't know if anyone expects this to affect short-to-medium term sourcing patterns when it's being imposed with a 10-day notice," said Stephen Lamar, senior vice president of the American Apparel & Footwear Association. "Those decisions have been made long ago."

Should the increase in prices ultimately be passed along to consumers, Lamar said it would in effect be a tax by the Chinese government on the American consumer.

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