In 2020, tariffs imposed on 20 of the most valuable consumer discretionary products imported into the People’s Republic of China from America cost a subtotal US$31.13 billion on $136 billion worth of those imported consumer goods from the United States.
Based on those subtotals, importers in mainland China pay an average 9.2% in tariff rates for 20 of its major consumer goods imported from America. Individual tariff rates for each of those 20 imported consumer goods from America vary from nil for optical recording media and antibiotics up to 65% for US-supplied corn.
This article will reveal individual tariff rates imposed on each of China’s 20 key consumer imports from America.
Defined: Who Collects and Who Pays Chinese Tariffs?
Tariffs are like direct taxes, in this case collected by the People’s Republic of China’s government on goods imported from America.
One common misconception is that the American government and companies in America directly pay tariffs imposed on products that they sell to China. In fact, Chinese-registered companies pay tariffs like a direct tax when products imported from America enter the People’s Republic. The tariff collector is China’s central government.
The underlying root cause motivating governments to impose tariffs is to build collectible revenue streams from products imported from a foreign entity like America (not covered under a Free Trade Agreement).
The reality is that Chinese importers pass on tariff costs to their customers in the form of higher prices. That is why many economists say that China’s businesses and consumers foot most of the bill for tariffs charged on products imported from America. In turn, tariffs on China’s imported goods trigger higher prices for those goods on which tariffs are imposed and therefore inflation.
Tariffs are not to be confused with import duty, excise duties or custom duties. Duty or duties are distinctly different kinds of indirect taxation which, in general, apply to a far smaller range of products than tariffs do.
China’s Most Valuable Consumer Products Imported from America
The focus of this analysis is on 20 of the most valuable consumer goods that mainland China bought from exporters located in America. Shown beside each product item is the total amount that Chinese importers spent including tariff costs.
- Soya beans: US$10.6 billion
- Medium-size passenger cars: $7.3 billion
- Immunological products for retail sale: $1.84 billion
- Beauty, make-up, skincare preparations: $1.76 billion
- Therapeutic/prophylactic medications: $1.67 billion
- Frozen pork (excluding hams, offal): $1.2 billion
- Corn: $958.9 million
- Miscellaneous food preparations: $853.1 million
- Vaccines used for human medicine: $627.1 million
- Electric motor vehicles: $556 million
- Miscellaneous items made from plastic: $547 million
- Frozen pork offal: $506.1 million
- Frozen hams, pork cuts with bone in: $474 million
- Big autos including station wagons, racing cars: $414 million
- Precious metal jewelry excluding silver: $399.2 million
- Optical recording media: $364.5 million
- Unused stamps including postage: $313.6 million
- Pistachios in shell: $259.9 million
- Miscellaneous iron or steel items excluding wire: $248.9 million
- Antibiotics: $240.1 million
By value, the above 20 consumer products represent 22.9% of China overall imports from the US during 2020. That percentage is much less than the 34.2% calculated for America’s top 20 imported consumer products. That difference in percentages suggests that China imports more higher value industrial, energy, and transportation products like electronic circuits, crude oil, large aircraft, turbojets and liquified propane.
Imports of the 20 major consumer goods from Chinese suppliers dropped in overall dollar value by an average -4.9% compared to 2019. In contrast, overall imports of all products from the US grew by 10.4% year over year.
The fastest growers from 2019 to 2020 were China’s imports for American shipments of corn (up 1,187%), frozen hams and pork cuts with bone in (up 327.8%), frozen pork excluding hams or offal (up 193.6%), frozen pork offal (up 84.8%), soya beans (up 59.1%), precious metal jewelry excluding silver (up 58.4%) and beauty, make-up or skincare preparations (up 53.4%).
Leading the decliners in terms of total US spending were electric motor vehicles (down -74.7% since 2019), pistachios in shell (down -45.6%), and larger automobiles including station wagons and racing cars (down -32.6%).
China’s Tariff Rates on Top Consumer Goods Bought from America
For faster research, listed below are the 20 biggest consumer products by dollar value that the People’s Republic of China imported from America by product name. This list is sorted in ascending alphabetical order starting with the lowest tariff rates.
Immediately to the right of each product name is the tariff percentage collected by China’s central government.
- Antibiotics: nil
- Optical recording media: nil
- Beauty, make-up, skincare preparations: 1%
- Immunological products for retail sale: 3%
- Soya beans: 3%
- Vaccines used for human medicine: 3%
- Therapeutic/prophylactic medications: 4%
- Unused stamps including postage: 6%
- Miscellaneous iron or steel items excluding wire: 8%
- Precious metal jewelry excluding silver: 10%
- Miscellaneous items made from plastic: 10%
- Pistachios in shell: 10%
- Frozen pork offal: 12%
- Miscellaneous food preparations: 12%
- Frozen hams, pork cuts with bone in: 12%
- Frozen pork (excluding hams, offal): 12%
- Electric motor vehicles: 15%
- Big autos including station wagons, racing cars: 15%
- Medium-size passenger cars: 15%
- Corn: 65%
The costliest Chinese tariff rates among those imposed on the main consumer goods imported from America is for corn (65% of product cost). Far behind in second place is the 15% tariff imposed on medium-size passenger cars, larger automobiles including station wagons or racing cars, and electric vehicles.
Besides the zero tariffs on antibiotics or optical recording media, the lowest tariffs that China’s government imposes on the top imported consumer products from the US is applied to cosmetics, specifically beauty, make-up or skincare preparations.
Dollar Cost of Chinese Tariffs to Buy Top US Consumer Products
Below, you will find China’s 20 major consumer products imported from America that drew the greatest tariff spending in 2020.
The leading imported Chinese goods are listed in descending order starting with the products generating the greatest tariff costs.
- Medium-size passenger cars: US$1.1 billion
- Corn: $623.3 million
- Soya beans: $319 million
- Frozen pork (excluding hams, offal): $139.4 million
- Miscellaneous food preparations: $102.4 million
- Electric motor vehicles: $83.4 million
- Therapeutic/prophylactic medications: $66.9 million
- Big autos including station wagons, racing cars: $62.1 million
- Frozen pork offal: $60.7 million
- Frozen hams, pork cuts with bone in: $56.9 million
- Immunological products for retail sale: $55.1 million
- Miscellaneous items made from plastic: $54.7 million
- Precious metal jewelry excluding silver: $39.9 million
- Pistachios in shell: $26 million
- Miscellaneous iron or steel items excluding wire: $19.9 million
- Unused stamps including postage: $18.82 million
- Vaccines used for human medicine: $18,81 million
- Beauty, make-up, skincare preparations: $17.6 million
- Antibiotics: nil
- Optical recording media: nil
China’s most expensive consumer products imported from America for collectible tariffs are automotive products (medium-size passenger cars and electric motor vehicles) and food items (corn, soya beans, frozen pork other than hams or offal, and miscellaneous food preparations).
Combined, the automobile products itemized about accounted for $1.24 billion in tariff costs for China’s businesses and consumers or 43.4% of the dollar amount charged for the above top consumer imports from the US.
At 46.4%, an even higher percentage of tariffs collected on the top 20 consumer products imported from the United States are for the 7 food items listed above.
More great research: World’s Top 100 Imported Consumer Products, US Top 100 Imported Consumer Products, China’s Top 100 Imported Consumer Products, US Tariffs on Key Consumer Products Imported from China
Independent insights and analysis presented in this article are based on researched facts and statistics sourced from the following educational sources.
Dheeraj Vaidya of WallStreetMojo, Duty vs Tariff.
International Trade Centre, Trade Map.
Rajesh Kumar Singh of Reuters, Explainer: Trump’s America tariff – Paid by U.S. Importers, not America.
United States International Trade Administration, Harmonized Tariff Schedule (2021 Basic Revision 8)
World Trade Organization, Get tariff data.