China to offer trade war tariff exemptions on 700 US farm, medical, energy products amid coronavirus

China announced on Tuesday that it will allow importers to apply for exemptions to additional trade war tariffs on nearly 700 types of goods from the United States, including farm and energy products, as the country battles the coronavirus outbreak that has infected over 70,000 people.

Importers can apply for tariff exemptions starting from March 2, according to a statement released by the Customs Tariff Commission of the State Council.

The exemptions would only be effective for one year, subject to approval, with the commission adding that each application would need to undergo an approval process.

“[The exemptions are] to support enterprises to import goods from the US based upon their business considerations,” the commission said in their statement.

The list contains 697 products lines, from soybeans, pork, and beef, to liquefied natural gas and crude oil, which have all been drawn into the tariff battle between the world’s two largest economies.

It also includes dozens of types of medical equipment such as thermometers, which are vital to help contain the coronavirus, which causes the disease known as Covid-19 and has killed over 1,800 people.

China is trying to source supplies of meat and medical products from across the globe as the country’s own output is unable to meet demand. The Ministry of Commerce said earlier this month that the country would vigorously purchase meat products from other countries and regions to ensure adequate supply in China, while it would also import more medical supplies as well as daily necessities.

Before the new tariff exemptions, both Beijing and Washington had halved additional duties on certain respective imports from February 14, when the phase one trade deal signed in December officially took effect.

China announced at the start of February that it would halve additional tariffs on US$75 billion of American products imposed late last year, one of the first signs that Beijing was implementing the phase one deal with the US despite the coronavirus outbreak.

Beijing cut a 10 per cent punitive tariff to 5 per cent, and a 5 per cent tariff to 2.5 per cent on February 14, according to China’s Ministry of Finance.

In response, the US halved a 15 per cent additional tariff on US$120 billion of Chinese goods to 7.5 per cent.

On Sunday, China also announced that it would remove the import ban on all US poultry products with its own farms under threat from the deadly H5N1 bird flu.

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