President Donald Trump’s trade war with China took a detour Tuesday as the United States Trade Representative postponed some of the $300 billion in tariffs set to take effect next month.
The USTR changed course following the public comment and hearing process, calling them necessary due to “health, safety, national security, and other factors.” Among the now excluded products are cell phones, laptop computers, video game consoles, certain toys, and computer monitors, according to a statement. The agency said it would supply a more detailed list on its website “as soon as possible.”
While the tariffs were not repealed outright, the change delays the imposition of tariffs on these products until December 15. That is significant as it all but guarantees any price increases due to tariffs wouldn’t occur during the crucial holiday shopping season.
It’s great news for the retail sector, of which some stocks fell to decadal lows this week following more bad news about retail sales, this time from Macy’s. Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette told reporters during an earnings call Wednesday that previous rounds of tariffs showed that the customers have “very little appetite” for price hikes.
The deal also gives companies like Apple more time to get products into consumers’ hands before the tariffs take effect and develop a strategy to mitigate their impact. Apple will debut new phones next month, and under the old guidelines, every new iPhone would have been affected.
With the extra time, Apple might be able to move some of the manufacturing out of China to lessen its exposure.
The changes wouldn’t shield Apple completely from the tariffs. Other products it sells, like the Apple Watch, its AirPods, and the HomePod smart speaker would still be subject to the tariff. However, of those products, only the Apple Watch sells in substantial numbers, so the hit on the company’s bottom line wouldn’t be as severe.
While stocks like Apple surged on Tuesday as the news broke, most gave back those gains Wednesday as the Dow plunged 800 points on recession fears, its worst single day this year.