The Biden administration announced last week that it will continue its policy of exempting several medical products, imported from China, from U.S. tariffs. That decision comes even as America’s severely depleted domestic production capacity of medical products was exposed during the COVID-19 pandemic likely originating in a Chinese lab.
The tariff exclusion had been set to expire at the end of May but has been extended at least through November.
The extension means that Chinese medical devices, surgical supplies, face masks, and hospital garments will continue to be sold in the U.S. marketplace free of the import tax.
The U.S. policy dating back decades of allowing largely free trade with communist China has hammered American manufacturing communities and has led to virtually absolute U.S. reliance on China and other foreign countries for essential medical products and other industrial goods.
The U.S. imported almost $300 million in paper hospital and sanitary supplies in 2020, with around 51% coming from China. That same year, America imported $470 million in rubber surgical gloves. Over 15% of those came from China and 70% came from Malaysia and Thailand.
America also saw a surge in imported paper clothing products including face masks during the first year of the pandemic in 2020, a trend that continues as medical professionals continue to mask up in virtually all office and clinical settings. Almost 60% of those types of products are imported from China.
As the pandemic went on, many smaller U.S. manufacturers reported they were not even being contacted about supplying federal contract needs for critical medical supplies. Meanwhile, federal contracts awarded to overseas medical suppliers skyrocketed.
The bipartisan infrastructure bill Biden ran through Congress was sold to the country as a massive boost for American production. However, as the law was eventually passed, it included huge exemptions allowing federal agencies to ignore the “Buy American” rules on any covered infrastructure project.
Analysts have reported that free trade policies with China eliminated around 3.7 million jobs from 2001 through 2018. Fully 2.8 million of those lost American jobs were in well-paying manufacturing industries. At the same time, more than 50,000 U.S. manufacturing plants shuttered.
The U.S. economy contracted significantly during the first quarter of 2022, as Gross Domestic Product (GDP) shrunk by 1.4%. The loss in GDP is considered a strong indication of the loss of American manufacturing capacity for goods that are instead being imported from countries with interests adverse to the U.S.