The White House raises tariffs on medical supplies from China

To boost domestic medical supply manufacturing, the Biden administration is hiking up tariffs on syringes, needles, medical and surgical gloves and personal protective equipment from China.

The tariffs are designed to combat artificially low-priced exports coming in from China, the federal government said in a fact sheet released yesterday.

“American businesses are now struggling to compete with underpriced Chinese-made supplies dumped on the market, sometimes of such poor quality that they may raise safety concerns for health care workers and patients,” the White House said.

President Biden directed his Trade Representative to increase tariffs under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 on $18 billion of imports from China.

In 2024, the tariff rates on syringes and needles will increase from 0% to 50%. For certain personal protective equipment (PPE), including certain respirators and face masks, the tariff rates will increase from 0–7.5% to 25% in 2024. Tariffs on rubber medical and surgical gloves will increase from 7.5% to 25% in 2026.

“These tariff rate increases will help support and sustain a strong domestic industrial base for medical supplies that were essential to the COVID-19 pandemic response, and continue to be used daily in every hospital across the country to deliver essential care,” the federal government said.

The federal government and the private sector have made “substantial investments” to build domestic manufacturing for these and other medical products, according to the government.

The American Medical Manufacturers Association cheered the move to raise tariffs on Chinese medical supply imports.

“This signifies a pivotal moment in America’s quest for self-reliance and true resilience, particularly in personal protective equipment (PPE) and critical medical products,” the organization said in a statement.

“The White House understands that domestic manufacturers face an onslaught of underpriced, subpar Chinese imports. By sidelining high-quality American manufacturers, cheap Chinese imports threaten the safety of our healthcare workers and patients,” Eric Axel, the executive director of AMMA said in a statement.

Axel added, “Our member companies can compete with manufacturers globally. All they ask is for a level playing field because they have no doubt that American ingenuity and quality will win out.”

In November, the FDA began investigating reports of China-made plastic syringes breaking and leaking. In March the agency confirmed the quality issue and the following month it issued a recommendation that consumers and healthcare providers stop using plastic syringes made by certain Chinese manfacturers.

The U.S. government also is raising tariffs for other sectors including steel and aluminum, semiconductors, electric vehicles, batteries, critical minerals, solar cells and ship-to-shore cranes.

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