Smartwatches and other accessories face looming threat of new Chinese-import tariffs


The world of international commerce is a complicated one, and the particular path a product takes as it evolves from raw materials, to discrete components, to a final, assembled gadget can have a big impact on what it ends up costing. Right now, shoppers in the U.S. are concerned about what impact new tariffs on Chinese imports might have on all manner of consumer goods, from cars to portable electronics. Now some newly published rulings spell out exactly what what kinds of gadgets we may be about to see become slightly more expensive.

When we last checked in with President Trump’s plans for tariffs, there was concern that levies against fully assembled smartphones would bump up prices here in the States. Over the past few months, though, the scope of these tariffs has shifted, and Trump has reassured phone-makers like Apple that their handsets won’t be targeted.

But that still leaves a lot of other product types vulnerable to these new fees, and as companies try to work out just where they’re going to be hit (it’s a complicated question, with over 6,000 defined product types covered by the latest tariff proposal), they’re asking U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials to make some rulings. Those have revealed that products like the Apple Watch, several FitBit activity trackers, and a number of Sonos speakers are all likely to be affected by the tariffs, should they go through.

That would end up costing the companies behind these devices an extra 10 percent to import their wares. The accessory market is already very competitive, and even a modest new cost like that could threaten to have a serious impact on revenue streams.

These proposed tariffs aren’t set in stone, though, and there’s still time for companies to lobby for certain categories to be excluded. Failing that, there’s the distant possibility that a product could be reclassified under another (non-tariffed) category, or even granted a specific exemption.

Still, don’t be surprised if things like smartwatch prices are slightly higher this holiday season. Maybe it’s time to get an early start on your shopping?



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