Senator Whitehouse, as a member of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, has engaged on this issue by joining several other Senators in sending a letter to US Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer. The December letter urged the establishment of an exclusion process for U.S. companies affected by the Section 301 tariffs against China—in other words, creating a mechanism for companies affected by the new 25% tariffs against $200 billion in imports to seek a waiver from those tariffs, so as to relieve some of the negative economic effect on American companies. In a January 2019 response, USTR committed to establishing such a process if the tariff escalation did in fact occur. Now that these new tariffs are entering into force, we will follow up with USTR.
Senator Whitehouse has also questioned Ambassador Lighthizer, Secretary Ross, and senior members of their staff in both public hearings and private meetings about what preparatory work the administration may have done to project the expected second-order effects on American businesses of imposing new tariffs.
Senator Whitehouse and other members of the Finance Committee have been pushing for a USTR briefing about the implementation of additional tariffs on Chinese products, on USTR’s objectives in the China trade negotiations, on USTR’s progress establishing an exclusion process for the third list of tariffed products and they are waiting for a response from the Trump Administration. Senator Wyden, the Ranking Member on Finance, just met with Ambassador Lighthizer last week to push him on these subjects and Lighthizer had no answers to questions about what’s next in the China talks or how the administration plans to bring China back to the table. USTR has no expectation that talks will resume at least until the G20 talks in Japan late next month, which means we can expect no immediate relief from the tariffs. The President’s trade rep is currently refusing to commit to testifying before the Finance Committee at a trade agenda hearing that is required by law.
Senator Whitehouse and his staff will continue to engage alongside other members of the Finance Committee to press USTR for answers about the imposition of additional 301 tariffs and the establishment of an exclusion process. Senator Whitehouse welcomes feedback from RI companies hurt by these recent events. Feel free to send any comments via email to Rele Abiade, Deputy State Director, at Rele_Abiade@whitehouse.senate.gov.