While all focus right now is on the need for Congress to renew GSP before December 31, the harm done by Administrative actions to American companies since GSP was last renewed in 2018 cannot be overstated. Since the last Congressional GSP reauthorization, American companies have paid up to $500 million in extra tariffs due to GSP country suspensions.
To be clear: they’re not paid by the countries and haven’t achieved any other U.S. policy goals and won’t be refunded if benefits are reinstated. They’re just $500 million in new taxes on U.S. companies at a time of unprecedented economic collapse and job losses.
Above is the breakdown of estimated tariffs paid by state. Imports into California and New Jersey have faced about $50 million in new tariffs each. Companies in traditional – or newfound – election battleground states Texas, Georgia, Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ohio were all in the top 10 of tariffs paid, collectively paying up to $168 million in extra taxes.
And the taxes paid continue to climb.
The bulk of taxes – up to $366 million from June 2019 to August 2020 – have been paid on imports from India. The typical GSP importer from India had 14 employees and saved $100,000 per year. The burden falls overwhelmingly on small businesses struggling to make it through the pandemic, not the large multinational that can rapidly shift sourcing to suppliers in other countries. A report from April 2019 profiled many U.S. companies that would be hurt by termination for India (and others).
Up to $111 million in tariffs have been paid on imports from Turkey from May 2019 to August 2020. In similar comments submitted as part of the Turkey review, we noted the typical GSP importer from Turkey had 14 employees and saved about $150,000 annually. The Turkey review was launched over “market access” issues, but there were no known discussions about resolving issues. Instead, Turkey was “graduated” for sufficient economic development despite just entered a recession and having a GDP per capita that has now fallen in 5 consecutive years (the metric used to determine if countries should be graduated from GSP automatically).
Up to $23 million in tariffs have been paid on imports from Thailand from May 2020 to August 2020. Importers from Thailand tend to be a little bigger – but far from large! – with the typical importer having 28 employees and savings $183,000 annually under GSP. Most unhelpfully, the product facing the most tariffs appear to be face masks. Higher tariffs on face masks may not have seemed like a big deal when Thailand’s partial suspension was announced in October 2019, but we’re in a very different world with mask imports surging due Covid-19.
Potential GSP renewal legislation is highly unlikely to address country-specific issues, but the impacts from terminations are no less real for American companies than the prospects of expiration. If Congress considers changes to the GSP programs in the future, ensuring importers interests are not ignored in the country review processes should be a top priority.