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Apple Watch, other wearables may be affected by Trump’s tariffs on China

Government rulings on recent China tariffs indicate that the latest round of US tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods could hit the Apple Watch, health trackers, streaming music speakers and other accessories that are being assembled in China.

The rulings name Apple Inc’s watch, several Fitbit Inc activity trackers and connected speakers from Sonos Inc. Mobile phone and laptop manufacturers haven’t been too much danger because of the import duty hikes, the rulings indicate that gadget makers are unlikely to be spared altogether and may have to consider price hikes on products that millions of consumers use every day.

Activity trackers, smart watches, streaming music devices and all such products have been now added to an obscure subheading of data transmission machines. Further, this particular subheading is included in the more than 6,000 such codes in President Donald Trump’s most recent round of proposed tariffs released earlier this month.

That $200 billion list of tariffs is in a public comment period. But if the list goes into effect this fall, the products from Apple, Fitbit and Sonos could face a 10 per cent tariff.

The specific products listed in customs rulings are the original Apple Watch; Fitbit’s Charge, Charge HR and Surge models; and Sonos’s Play:3, Play:5 and SUB speakers.

The toll from tariffs on the gadget world’s smaller product lines could be significant. Sonos and Fitbit do not break out individual product sales, but collectively they had $2.6 billion in revenue last year. Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi estimates that the Apple Watch alone will bring in $9.9 billion in sales this year, though that estimate includes sales outside the United States that the tariff would not touch.

It is possible that the products from Apple, Fitbit and Sonos no longer fall under tariff codes in the $200 billion list, trade experts said. The codes applied to specific products are only public knowledge because their makers asked regulators to rule on their proper classification. And some of the products have been replaced by newer models that could be classified differently.

But if companies have products whose tariff codes are on the list, they have three options, experts said: Advocate to get the code dropped from the list during the public comment period, apply for an exclusion once tariffs go into effect, or try to have their products classified under a different code not on the list.

The last option could prove difficult due to the thousands of codes covered, said one former US trade official.

About the author

Shawn Symonds

Shawn Symonds

Seven years in pharmaceuticals has given Shawn immense exposure in everything related to medicines, drugs, chemicals and related sectors – at least from the PR front. Through his insider access to the sector, he has gained valuable insight into the entire manufacturing process of medicines and vaccines.

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