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Women work in a garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh. (Mehedi Hasan / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

While US tariffs as a whole continue to be at or near their lowest levels, the duties imposed on specific imported products vary widely depending on what they are and where they come from. In general, the highest tariffs are levied on clothing and clothing.

Last year, according to Census Bureau data (accessible through the U.S. International Trade Commission DataWeb tool), import duties stood at $ 33.1 billion, or 1.4 billion dollars. % of the total value of all imported goods and 4.7% of the value of all subject imports. to duty. (Most imported goods are not subject to duties. Only 30.4% of the total $ 2.33 trillion in imported goods, or about $ 708.6 billion, were subject to duties; the remainder is entered the United States freely.)

But these aggregate figures hide a vast and complex range of individual tariff rates, on thousands of precisely defined import categories. These are set out in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States, the latest edition of which is 3,713 pages – almost as long as the Internal Revenue Code. The HTS, as it is called, gets very specific: it will tell you, for example, how the duty on “artificial flowers, foliage and fruit” differs depending on whether the objects in question are made of plastic (8.4%), feathers (4.7%) or synthetic fibers (9%).

Larger U.S. Imports Usually Subject to Low Tariffs

Generally speaking, the largest categories of US imports tend to be subject to relatively low tariff rates, while the highest rates are generally found in relatively small categories. Clothing is the main exception: the two main classifications of “clothing and clothing accessories” together accounted for $ 80.6 billion in imports last year (3.5% of the total); nearly $ 64 billion of these imports, or 79%, were “dutiable” – that is, dutiable. Average tariffs on dutiable portions were 18.7% for knitted or crocheted garments and 15.8% for non-knitted or crocheted items – the two highest average rates out of 98 major categories of clothing. import. Footwear followed closely: almost all of the $ 25.5 billion in imported shoes are subject to duties, at an average rate of 11.9%.

In contrast, average duties were much lower on “machinery and electrical equipment”, the most important category of imported goods. This category includes telecommunications equipment, computer chips, televisions and broadcast equipment, electrical transformers and related products. The United States imported nearly $ 347 billion of these products last year, but only 21.3% of them were subject to tariffs; the average duty on this portion was only 2.7%.

Computer equipment and industrial machinery is the second largest import category ($ 339.4 billion), but only $ 57 billion of these imports are taxed, at an average rate of 3%. “Vehicles and parts” accounted for $ 292.6 billion in imports but generated less than $ 3.4 billion in tariff revenue (2.7% of customs value).

Imported steel products subject to a 25% tariff by President Donald Trump’s administration totaled $ 29.3 billion last year, according to our analysis of ITC data; all were previously duty free. The categories of aluminum imports specified for an additional 10% tariff in Trump’s order amounted to just under $ 17 billion; about one-fifth of these imports were already subject to duties, or an average of 3.5% of the assessed value. (However, steel and aluminum imports from Canada and Mexico have been excluded from the new tariffs, pending the outcome of ongoing talks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.)

Minerals and metals, in this case, are one of the import categories on which the United States has applied particularly low tariffs, according to data from the latest “World Tariff Profiles” report, jointly produced by the United States. World Trade Organization, International Trade Center and United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. The “applied most-favored-nation duty” on minerals and metals was 1.7%, the 125th out of 138 countries and other economic units. (“Most-favored-nation” or MFN, part of this measure refers to the tariffs that each WTO member country agrees to apply to all other WTO members, unless they do part of a free trade area, customs union or other “preferential trade.” agreement. ”In addition, the report treats the 28 members of the European Union as a single entity, and it covers Hong Kong and Macao separately from the rest of China.)

The highest US import taxes compared to the rest of the world are on petroleum: the average applied MFN rate of 6.5% is tied for 47th place, with Costa Rica. (The Cook Islands, an autonomous part of New Zealand, have the highest average oil tariffs: a whopping 168%.) That’s a far cry from the 93.4% imposed by Turkey.

In general, countries tend to impose their highest import duties on drinks (read: alcohol) and tobacco, which is why this is most of what you’ll find on the shelves of ‘ duty-free shops’ at international airports. The average MFN tariff applied to the “beverages and tobacco” category, according to WTO data, is 35.8%. (The US average rate, on the other hand, is 19.1%.) Egypt wins the prize here, with an applied average tariff of 803% on beverages and tobacco.

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