Customers look at antiques and figurines at a stall. (Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg)

Chinese Art and Antiquities Spared From Trump Tariffs, For Now

(Bloomberg) -- Chinese art and antiquities have been spared from President Donald Trump’s tariffs. At least so far.

Trump ordered his administration to impose 10 percent tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods next week and to raise the rate to 25 percent in January if Beijing refuses to offer trade concessions. Among items removed from the initial list of goods targeted for duties are those covering paintings, sculptures, collages, ceramics and historical collectibles, along with antiques older than 100 years.

Critics of the tariff plan said it would discourage private collectors and dealers from acquiring Chinese art and cultural items, and because museums rely on donations, they and the viewing public would suffer. They also questioned the effectiveness of trying to spur U.S. production or change China’s trade behavior by targeting art.

Opponents of taxing Chinese art were among the hundreds of U.S. companies and trade groups that pleaded at public hearings and in written comments to the Office of U.S. Trade Representative, or USTR, to spare certain products from tariffs.

“Thanks to all who submitted comments and spoke against the proposed tariffs on Chinese art and congratulations on helping the USTR to arrive at the right decision,” James Lally, whose Manhattan gallery specializes in works from China, said in an emailed statement.

Other items removed from the Trump administration’s $200 billion list included smart watches, fitness activity trackers, bicycle helmets and children’s safety equipment like high chairs and car seats.

Global Sales

China is the world’s No. 2 art market, accounting for 21 percent of sales by value, behind the U.S. at 42 percent, according to the Art Market 2018 report from Art Basel and UBS Group AG. Sales in the global art market reached $63.7 billion in 2017, up 12 percent from 2016, according to the report.

Imports originating from China last year included $107.2 million for century-old antiques and $66.6 million for paintings, drawings and pastels by hand, according to U.S. Census data.

Still, Chinese art could be put back in the line of fire.

China quickly announced that it plans to retaliate with levies on $60 billion worth of U.S. goods, and Trump has threatened levies on about $267 billion of Chinese imports if Beijing strikes back.

While U.S. business groups lauded the exclusions of some products targeted for tariffs, they lamented that Trump is proceeding with duties as a way to address China’s trade practices rather than a negotiated deal.

“The administration did not heed the numerous warnings from American consumers and businesses about rising costs and lost jobs on Main Street, in factories, and on farms and ranches across the country,” U.S. Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer Thomas Donohue said in a statement. “Both countries should stay at the negotiating table, and the U.S. should continue working with its allies to seek alternative solutions.”

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