Religious Titles Escape Tariffs in Trade War, Children’s Books Tariffs Delayed

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As President Donald Trump’s trade war with China wages on, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has announced some exceptions to the proposed additional 10 percent tariff on $300 billion of Chinese imports, which includes printed books.

Trump first announced the new round of tariffs on August 1. According to a statement from the USTR on Tuesday, religious books, including Bibles, will be excluded from the 10 percent tariff, and the 10 percent tariff on children’s books, printed calendars, and postcards will be delayed from September 1, instead going into effect on December 15. All other books printed in China are still subject to the 10 percent tariff that goes into effect on September 1, including trade, educational, and professional titles.

Religious titles and certain other products are being excluded “based on health, safety, national security and other factors and will not face additional tariffs of 10 percent,” according to the trade office.

“While this decision to exclude tariffs on religious titles, and to delay any tariffs on children’s books, is good news, the full impact of the announced tariffs on bookselling and the industry remains a significant concern,” said ABA CEO Oren Teicher. “Tariffs on books are an unwarranted surcharge on the exchange of ideas, and a roadblock to presenting a vibrant, diverse range of titles to the greatest number of readers. The importance of offering affordable books to book buyers of all ages — especially during the critically important holiday season — cannot be overstated. The administration’s policy on book tariffs has evolved over the past weeks, and we hope this latest news is not the last word on the matter.”

In response to the tariffs news, Maria A. Pallante, president and CEO of the Association of American Publishers (AAP), said Tuesday, “We are pleased that the administration did not include Bibles and other religious books on the first list of products to be subject to the tariffs, and delayed tariffs on children’s books until December 15. However, we remain deeply concerned that a wide range of other books remain on the list,” noting that “a tariff on books is a tax on information, and at odds with longstanding U.S. policy of not imposing tariffs on educational, scientific and cultural materials.”

Pallante also pointed out that “these books are part of a vital economic engine that makes significant contributions to the U.S. economy, and supports American publishers, authors, illustrators, editors, and designers, as well as distributors and booksellers.”

In its announcement, the USTR said that the 10 percent tariff on List 4A goods, which will go into effect on September 1, is for products that make up less than 75 percent of the 2018 U.S. imports from China. The second round of tariffs, which is scheduled to go into effect December 15, is on List 4B goods, which are items that make up 75 percent or more of the 2018 U.S. imports from China.

Trump had previously threatened a 25 percent tariff on $250 billion worth of manufactured goods imported into the U.S., including printed books. In response, leading representatives from the publishing and bookselling industries, including ABA President Jamie Fiocco, testified in June before the Office of U.S. Trade Representatives in opposition to the tariffs.

Although Trump declared a trade truce on June 29, as the U.S. and China resumed trade talks, the president subsequently announced the 10 percent tariff on an additional $300 billion of goods on August 1. In the days following the president’s announcement, China responded by allowing its currency to weaken, causing global stocks to fall.

In explaining the decision to exclude certain products from the tariffs or to delay a tariff imposition, the president told reporters Tuesday that the aim was to allow stores to stock up before the holiday season, so as not to hurt consumers. The delay until December 15 applies to products such as cell phones, laptop computers, video game consoles, certain toys, computer monitors, and certain items of footwear and clothing. Stocks rose in the wake of the news, the New York Times reported. 

The USTR stated that, moving forward, it does intend to conduct an exclusion process on products subject to the additional tariff.