June Deadlines Approach for China Tariff Comments and Testimony; Process Could Shape Sizeable Duties on Eyewear

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ALEXANDRIA, Va.—The fourth list of tariff numbers—which could become subject to China 301 customs duties of as much as 25 percent—was published in the Federal Register last Friday, May 17 and as previously reported this list now includes core eyewear products including spectacle lenses, ophthalmic frames, sunglasses, reading glasses and other low vision devices made in China. Deadlines for comments opposing the proposed action must be filed by June 17 while comments from those requesting to testify at upcoming hearings need to be filed by June 10.

According to a communique sent by The Vision Council to its members on May 20, the rate of duty has not been set but it will not exceed 25 percent. Furthermore, such duties have not become active, but the organization says it expects them to go into effect no earlier than the end of June.

To assist members interested in filing comments, The Vision Council will soon provide access to templates members can use to voice their opposition to China 301 duties on optical products. The organization told VMAIL that it expects the templates will be available early the week of May 27 at which time The Vision Council will advise and stand ready to assist in the filing process. Rick Van Arm, the association's regulatory counsel, said there will be letters drafted for key vision product categories, which can be used all or in part, or combined together.

Members can also fashion and file their own comments any time, starting now. They must be submitted to this particular Regulations.gov page for Docket ID: USTR-2019-0004 . Additionally, The Vision Council will be submitting its own letter and commentary, requesting an opportunity to be heard at a public hearing on this issue scheduled for June 17, in Washington D.C. That letter will be made public to Vision Council members. All letters posted on this page are also viewable by the public.

After the Administration receives the comments and testimony, it will review and decide on the final list of tariff numbers for the additional duties.

The Vision Council is working with an affiliated association representing the dispensing end of the optical businesses to highlight the medical aspects of The Vision Council’s members’ products. The organization would not yet say who that association is, but emphasized that these points will be central to The Vision Council comments and testimony. "Based on the few exceptions carved out of the first three rounds of China 301 duties after their respective comment periods closed, we expect limited exceptions to the fourth list. The Vision Council urges members to plan accordingly."

The Vision Council will alert members when the comment templates are ready for use. Any questions about this issue can be directed to Rick Van Arnam, The Vision Council’s regulatory counsel, at rvanarnam@barnesrichardson.com.