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Ways and Means Leaders Say Section 301 Review Dawdling Shows Passivity

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Jason Smith and Trade Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Adrian Smith called out U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai for the lengthy wait for the Section 301 tariffs review, which officially started in July 2022 after a round of comments that year in May in favor of extending the action.

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The two Republicans asked the administration in a letter to quickly conclude the review and release its findings. Their letter didn't say what they think should happen to the tariffs, but said Tai's guiding principle should be that the U.S. must remain the world's economic, technology and military leader.

Adrian Smith, in a hallway interview at the Capitol, quipped, "Is it a six-year report, or is it a four-year report two years delayed?"

He didn't say what he and Jason Smith would view as "significant and substantive," which is what they wrote should be the result after such a long process. "Gosh, it's so late! You would think there would be big stuff in it, but I'm not holding my breath," Adrian Smith said.

The letter said, “It took President [Donald] Trump only about eight months to conclude the extensive original Section 301 investigation into China’s unfair trade practices, and only about another four months to impose the resulting tariffs. In contrast, the Biden administration has taken two years to study the effectiveness of the tariffs President Trump imposed and their connection to the U.S. relationship with China going forward."

Adrian Smith said, "I'd love to see a vision for how our policies can ultimately benefit American consumers and American manufacturing," adding that he still hears from manufacturers that they are burdened by the cost of inputs. "Let's focus on what we can do to reverse inflation, and ultimately help U.S. consumers." He said he would like to see a new exclusion process. "It allows a thoughtful process to take place, and it deals with realities that exist."

Although he did not take a position on hiking tariffs on some products or rolling them back on non-strategic goods, the letter suggested there should be higher tariffs on some categories.

"From electric vehicles to petrochemicals to steel to aluminum to a host of sundry manufactured goods, the free market economies of the world are in for an overcapacity shock," the letter said. "But instead of bracing for impact against China’s extreme overcapacity, the administration seems to still be debating various styles of seatbelts.

"Combined with failure to enforce China's violations of the Phase One Agreement, two years of waiting on the results of the four-year review represents a passive approach to China trade challenges that lacks strategic focus."

A USTR spokesperson said the office received the letter, and had no other comment.