The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has extended the tariff exclusions from "Section 301" on Chinese imports for nine months. The exemptions include 352 Chinese import categories, such as printed circuit boards (PCBs), used to fabricate the best graphics cards and other computer hardware.
During the early stages of the China–United States trade war back in 2018, President Trump imposed tariffs on many imported Chinese products. In March of this year, the USTR temporarily lifted the Trump-era tariffs. However, the tariff exemption expires on December 31, likely impacting graphics card pricing in 2023. Fortunately, the USTR has decided to prolong the tariff exclusions for another nine months.
"These exclusions were initially reinstated on March 28, 2022, and the extension will help align further consideration of these exclusions with the ongoing comprehensive four-year review," said the USTR in the press release (opens in new tab).
The USTR has started its four-year review of the effectiveness of the Section 301 tariffs on Chinese goods. Phase 1, which has concluded, allowed interested parties that benefit from the tariffs to make their case about why they want the tariffs to remain. Phase 2, which ends on January 17, 2023, will let all parties, including those that oppose the tariffs, comment. Unfortunately, the USTR hasn't shared the review results, so the jury is still out on whether the Biden administration will maintain or scrap the tariffs.
Not all manufacturers produce their graphics cards in China, but the majority do. The sad part is that companies will likely push the tariff unto the consumer. For example, vendors, including Asus and MSI, had increased the MSRP for their graphics cards before the tariff exemption. Shortly after the USTR lifted the import tariff, Asus issued price cuts of up to 25% on the graphics cards.
High-end graphics cards, such as the GeForce RTX 4090 or Radeon RX 7900 XTX, already cost a small fortune. Now imagine if the tariffs were back — consumers would have to fork up 25% more cash for the same graphics card regardless of the tier. So, for example, a GeForce RTX 4090, which already has an eye-watering $1,599 MSRP, would suddenly cost almost $2,000. There's nothing to do other than sit and wait to see whether the tariffs are here to stay. At least we have a nine-month grace period if things go south.
The GPU will not be as "cheap" as they are now in the future, at least not in the USA. In the rest of the world they may actually come down... hopefully... in few years in anyway... maybe... at least a little bit, or increase at less speed!
And I would sell that for less than what a 4090 costs, even if some may say that I could possibly get more for it, as it is by now likely more rare than a 4090 (and therefore in collectors' terms of more value).
So, if one's personal expectation of a computer is to look at NFT pics and to use a micro-blogging website, this GPU could be a great fit at a reasonable price, tariffs or not.
I'm somewhat ambivalent on tariffs, overall. In some cases, they're a necessary measure, but the problem is that eventually the costs will be passed on to the customer. When they are used, they really need to be phased in, over time. That minimizes collateral damage while still addressing structural market imbalances.
With all that aside, I'm glad to hear these exemptions have been extended, as they would have only served to further fuel inflation. Once inflation is firmly under control, we can take another look at tariffs.