Flooring Tariff Exclusion Announced

Last week the news was filled with excitement that there could be some light at the end of the trade war tunnel.  “Big” exclusions were announced.  The extra 301 tariff will not be placed onto certain products (for one year only) such as dog leashes, skateboards, plastic straws, miniature Christmas lights, car radiators, CB radio antennas and dielectric capacitors to name a few of the 400 plus items.  I’m sure everyone feels better knowing that their dog leashes have not been deemed a discriminatory technology transfer.

For some reason, many articles also cited the exclusion to “laminated wood flooring” as one of the items now able to enter the country again without the special tax.  My guess as to why this was cited so often is because it gave the ordinary consumer hope that something they really wanted, and was a big ticket item for their home (unlike dog leashes), was now more affordable again.  It also was probably easier to understand than “dielectric capacitors.”  Or for that matter, to “non-adhesive translucent ethylene-vinyl acetate” (better known as shelf liners) or “zener diodes” (which according to Wikipedia, are “a type of diode that allows current to flow not only from its anode to its cathode, but also in the reverse direction, when the Zener voltage is reached” and which are quite disturbingly reported to “have a highly doped p–n junction.”)   So yes, if I were a regular news reporter, I’d definitely pick “laminated wood flooring” as a more familiar product to announce as excluded.

Unfortunately, this is not going to really impact the market because according to a quick look at trade data, in the last two years the US brought in somewhere over 2000 containers of dog leashes and about 20 containers of this particular flooring.

So what is covered?  The exact description is for:           

“Laminated wood flooring panels having a hardwood veneer finished surface and a backing of pine strips or blocks, the panels having tongue-and-groove outer edges and being in thickness greater than 1.4 cm but not greater than 1.5 cm. (described in statistical reporting number 4412.99.5105)”

Breaking this down, you can see that it’s a two layer product—a hardwood top face sitting on solid pine strips.  And the exclusion is very narrowly specified to a 14-15mm thickness.  If you wanted to do the same product, say Oak on Pine in 10mm, you are out of luck.  And a 14mm floor with Oak on Poplar isn’t covered either.  This is a very specific product that is now excluded.

This exclusion process has been part of the trade war since the start—this is not a new policy and I don’t see it as a softening of the Administration’s position.  When the tariffs get announced, the government also (eventually) announced that you could petition for exclusions.  Thousands upon thousands of companies have made requests and so far, a handful of products were granted one. 

In case you want to apply for your own, then for List 3 you have about a week to do so.  The official criteria is:

  • Whether the particular product is available only from China and specifically whether the particular product and/or a comparable product is available from sources in the United States and/or third countries.  (This is one of many reasons the description had to be so specific—there is a 19mm product of similar construction coming in from Canada while a number of Chinese companies produce two-layer floors on other substrates—this was carefully written to largely cover a single product.)  

  • Whether the imposition of additional duties on the particular product would cause severe economic harm to the requestor or other U.S. interests. 
  • Whether the particular product is strategically important or related to “Made in China 2025” or other Chinese industrial programs. 

If you want to look at all items excluded, you check out the lists here:

(By the way, you might note that Apple asked for 15 exclusions: 10 have been granted and 5 are pending.)

You might also want to review HTS terminology and can do that here:

And if you want to send a message to Congress asking them to end the trade war, go here:https://tariffshurt.com/add-your-voice

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Elizabeth Baldwin is Environmental Compliance Officer for Metropolitan Hardwood Floors. In her 25 plus year career in the wood industry has visited over 70 countries and hundreds of facilities of all sizes and types. She describes herself as a “jack of all wood trades.” Familiar with jungles of all sorts–having camped out along the Amazon and walked the halls of Congress–she blogs for the NWFA on both environmental and regulatory issues for educational and informational purposes only. Her blog is not intended and should not be construed as legal advice. Persons seeking legal advice on compliance with CARB, TSCA, the U.S. Lacey Act or any other law, regulation, or compliance requirement/claim should consult with the regulatory agency directly and/or a qualified legal professional.

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