Trump officials seek public comment on removing tariffs on medical supplies from China

Trump officials seek public comment on removing tariffs on medical supplies from China
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The Trump administration cracked open the door to removing tariffs on medical supplies from China as the White House scrambles to address a shortage of masks, ventilators and other tools needed to subdue the coronavirus outbreak.

The U.S. Trade Representative released a statement late Friday inviting comments from the public, businesses and government agencies on “possible further modifications to remove duties from additional medical care products.”

The comments will be accepted for roughly three months through June 25. They are being limited to comments on products subject to the tariff actions and relevant to the medical response to the coronavirus.

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“To facilitate timely consideration of possible modifications, interested parties should submit comments as promptly as possible,” the statement said.

The Trump administration in 2017 launched an investigation into allegations of intellectual property theft and forced technology transfer, paving the way for a nearly two-year trade war. Though a ceasefire was declared earlier this year, tariffs on roughly $360 billion Chinese imports are still in effect.

The White House is now being pressed to lift remaining tariffs on China to allow the freer flow of medical supplies in the midst of the pandemic, though President TrumpDonald John TrumpMulvaney: 'We've overreacted a little bit' to coronavirus Former CBS News president: Most major cable news outlets 'unrelentingly liberal' in 'fear and loathing' of Trump An old man like me should be made more vulnerable to death by COVID-19 MORE this week dismissed the prospect.

“There’s no reason to do that. China is paying us billions and billions of dollars in tariffs,” he said in a news conference Wednesday. “I can’t imagine Americans asking for that.” 

The coronavirus has infected nearly 20,000 people and killed at least 275 in the U.S., according to data from Johns Hopkins University.