China to waive tariffs on US medical imports while fighting virus outbreak

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Feb 18 2020 06:38 PM

A Benjamin Franklin $100 dollar banknote and a Chinese 100 yuan banknote with late Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong are seen in this picture illustration in Beijing, China, Jan. 21, 2016. Jason Lee, Reuters/File Photo

BEIJING - China will waive trade-war tariffs on imports of selected US medical equipment from March 2, the government said Tuesday, as the country battles to contain the new coronavirus epidemic.

The move comes as doctors and nurses treating virus patients in China's overstretched hospitals struggle to deal with the health crisis amid a shortage of basic medical items.

More than 72,000 people have been infected by the outbreak of the new COVID-19 strain in China, which has claimed the lives of over 1,800 people.

Patient monitors, blood transfusion equipment and instruments to measure blood pressure are among the products that qualify for the exemptions, according to a list released by the Tariff Commission of the State Council.

They are among 696 US products that now qualify for waivers, including key agricultural and energy items such as frozen pork and beef, soybeans and liquified natural gas.

Other products include some types of wheat, corn and sorghum, certain metals such as copper and lead ore, as well as diesel and other fuel oils.

The commission said the latest move was "to better meet the growing needs of Chinese consumers" and that it would accept applications for exemptions from firms in China.

The tariff waivers will apply for a designated period, supporting firms that want to import from the US based on "business considerations", said authorities.

China's latest waivers are among the most substantial in the trade war.

In early December, Beijing announced tariff waivers on some US soybean and pork imports. 

Later in the month, it exempted more goods, including US chemicals such as industrial glue and adhesives, industrial polymers and types of paraffin, which can be found in cosmetics and food.

Apart from the current virus crisis, China has seen a spike in pork prices over the past year due to African Swine Fever, which ravaged pig herds across the country -- with authorities working to ease the strain.

US-China trade tensions have been dialling down, with both countries signing a partial trade deal in mid-January. Beijing committed to boost purchases of US goods and services by $200 billion.

More than a week ago, it announced it would halve tariffs on $75 billion worth of US imports as part of its trade truce with the US.

China has also made other moves to ease the supply of resources in the country amid the virus fight, and said earlier this month that US imports which can be used in its fight against the deadly virus will be exempted from retaliatory tariffs imposed in the trade war.