Refractory minerals have largely been left off the latest list of China-origin commodities that will become subject to import tariffs in the United States from next week, but some pigment and ceramic minerals are still included.
Following almost two weeks of uncertainty, the US administration has decided to release a list of commodities that will become subject to 10% import duty from September 24, with a proposal to increase the rate to 25% from next year if an agreement is not reached with China before then.
The list covers about $200 billion-worth of Chinese goods, and exacerbates the trade war that has been building between the US and China during US President Donald Trump’s time in office.
Notably, the latest list no longer includes alumina, graphite, silicon carbide, magnesite and magnesia products. Most of these refractories raw materials were included in the original proposal, published in July.
"Those materials that are not available elsewhere [other than China] have been excluded. Those that are either available in the US, or where there are other viable origins, have been left in," one US-based participant in the refractories sector said. "This is definitely a positive development for our industry."
Importers of Chinese refractory minerals can breathe a sigh of relief, after they lobbied for exclusions to safeguard the sector, which depends on China as the main or sole producer of some key raw materials.
But processed refractory products and semi-finished products are still included – such as refractory cements and mortars (HS 38160000); refractory bricks containing magnesia (HS 69021010), alumina or silica (HS 69022050/10); refractory tiles; and similar product lines.
A number of clays under HS code 25081000 are included in the tariff list, as are andalusite, kyanite, sillimanite, mullite, dolomite and chamotte.
Kaolin is included, as are quartz, sulfur, natural silica sand, borates, feldspar, vermiculite and iodine. In lithium, lithium carbonates (HS 28369100), lithium oxides and hydroxides (HS 28252000) are included in the list.
Pigments such as titanium dioxide, titanium feedstocks and iron oxide pigment also remain included.
Additionally, the duty will be applied to aluminium hydroxide (HS 28183000). This is the main feedstock for the production of non-halogenated flame retardants. The US imports a large volume of this material, although its primary source is Brazil, not China.
In the oil and gas sector, barite, which is used in drilling fluid, has been taken off the list. This follows repeated warnings about the effect that a tariff on the oilfield mineral could exert on the recovering oil industry in the US.
Also exempt for the time being is fluorspar, as are rare-earth elements. Antimony oxides (HS 28258000) were included in the July list, but have now been removed.
A full list of the commodities subject to the tariff can be seen here.
Martim Facada in London contributed to this article.