Books had escaped the early rounds of tariffs imposed on imports from China by the Trump administration in its growing trade war with that country, but they did not escape the most recent round that slaps tariffs on almost all goods printed in China. According to a notice issued earlier this week by the office of the U.S. Trade Representative, books are among the $300 billion worth of Chinese imports that face a potential 25% tariff following the failure of the U.S. and China to reach a new trade agreement.
In the new notice from the USTR, a range of books and other printed material are subject to the tariff. They include: printed books, brochures, leaflets, and similar printed matter in single sheets, whether or not folded; printed dictionaries and encyclopedias; printed books, brochures, leaflets, and similar printed matter, other than in single sheets; children's picture, drawing, or coloring books; and maps and hydrographic or similar charts of all kinds, including atlases and topographical plans, printed in book form.
Publishers first heard rumors that books would be part of the new tariffs last week, and those reports became fact late Tuesday when the USTR issued its new notice. Publishers were reluctant to discuss the potential imposition of tariffs, although one publisher termed the possibility of 25% tariff on books from China “a frightening prospect.” Although a small amount of book printing has returned to the U.S., China remains an important source for book manufacturing, particularly for illustrated titles.
At this point there is no guarantee the new tariffs will be imposed. In its notice, the USTR issued upcoming dates for a public hearing on the proposal. June 10 is the due date for any party to file a request to appear at the hearing and to file a summary of its expected testimony. Written comments are due June 17 and at 9:30 that day the hearing will be held in Washington. Post-hearing rebuttal comments are due seven days after the last day of the hearing, likely during the week of Monday, according to the USTR.
It is not clear how long after the hearing the tariffs might by imposed. The U.S. and China have both said they are open to more trade negotiations, and there is hope that if a deal is not reached before the G20 Summit set for June 28 to 29, President Trump and China’s leader Xi Jinping may discuss a deal that could cancel or at least delay the imposition of the new tariffs.