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Trump administration exempts face masks and medical gowns from import tariffs as coronavirus spreads

Mar 07. 2020
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By The Washington Post · Jeanne Whalen · NATIONAL, BUSINESS, HEALTH, US-GLOBAL-MARKETS 

U.S. trade officials have exempted medical gowns, protective masks and other healthcare products made in China from trade-war-related import tariffs as demand soars amid the coronavirus crisis.

The exemptions, dated March 5, were posted on the website of the Office of the United States Trade Representative.

Recipients of the exemptions include VistaLab Technologies Inc., Cardinal Health and Medline Industries Inc. Disposable lab coats, medical drapes, exam gloves, medicine cups and stethoscope covers are among the more than 100 products exempted, as reported earlier by The Wall Street Journal.

USTR granted the exemptions in response to requests made by the companies. In a Jan. 31 letter, the Advanced Medical Technology Association urged USTR to lift the tariffs on products "critical to helping to contain the coronavirus in the U.S. and in China."

"Including medical technology products on the USTR tariff list is troubling from a public health perspective," the industry group added.

The Trump administration began imposing extra import tariffs on goods made in China in 2018, in a bid to force Beijing to abandon trade policies that the U.S. has long labeled discriminatory. The countries signed a partial trade truce in January, but most of the tariffs remain in place.

In a statement Friday, Medline Industries called the exemptions "helpful," but added that USTR had denied some of the company's exemption requests.

"Just yesterday, 33 other exclusion requests were denied, including surgical drapes and biohazard bags," said the company, based in Northfield, Illinois. Overall the tariffs have cost Medline more than $100 million and had "a significant impact on healthcare and its costs," the company said.


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