Billiards balls and tailors’ chalk: 10 unexpected products hit by new Chinese tariffs

Rex Crum
The Mercury News

By now, you certainly have become aware of the trade war going on between the United States and China. President Donald Trump has mentioned it on Twitter on a near-daily basis, and Wall Street whipsaws back and forth every time it seems the matter is either flaring up or on the brink of resolution.

The main issue of the trade war is tariffs – the taxes that the U.S. and China impose upon the products imported from the other. Trump believes Beijing doesn’t play fair when it comes to American goods for sale in China; as a result, he is threatening to increase tariffs from 10% to 15% on $300 billion worth of Chinese imports starting Sept. 1. (Another $250 billion in imports from China are slated to see tariffs go up from 25% to 30% in October.) China retaliated Aug. 23 when it said it would slap new tariffs on $75 billion of U.S. imports, also beginning Sept. 1.

In this March 9, 2016, file photo, a bottle of maple syrup are displayed at the Merrifield Farm and Sugar Shack in Gorham, Maine.

And as that date approaches, it seems like sentiment changes from day to day about whether a deal will be reached to avoid the proposed tariffs going into effect.

Trump has moved to delay some of the tariffs from being implemented Sunday. Earlier this month, the president said he would postpone new tariffs on some products – including consumer electronics such as Apple’s iPhones, iPads and MacBook laptops – until Dec. 15. But that still leaves thousands of goods that could see their prices go up in a matter of days if no agreement is reached.

The Office of U.S. Trade Representative has a list of items imported from China that are subject to new tariff increases – and it spans 122 pages. It is quite the document to behold, especially in its specificity with regards to certain types of items.

For example, there are at least 18 different listings for types of gloves that are in line for a tariff hike. These include, as the document states, “Ice hockey and field hockey gloves, knitted or crocheted, of synthetic fibers, not impregnated, coated or covered with plastics or rubber,” and “Ice hockey and field hockey gloves, not knitted or crocheted, of cotton, not impregnated, coated or covered with plastics or rubber.”

And those aren’t even the oddest of the items on the list. Here’s a look at 10 unexpected things that are imported from China and are subject to the potential new tariffs set to be implemented Sept. 1.

Live purebred breeding horses: Might as well start with the first item on the list. We’re not sure if “breeding horses” refers to any of the potential ponies that may ride in the Kentucky Derby one day. But wouldn’t it be something if a thoroughbred called “Beijing Blazer” ended up in the Churchill Downs winner’s circle?

Billiard balls: Looking to hustle a game of nine ball? You might have to put more on the line to rack ‘em up soon.

Maple sugar and maple syrup: That topping for your waffles might not be from Canada or Vermont, but rather from Hainan Province? Say it isn’t so!\

Pumpkins, fresh or chilled: OK, now we’re getting serious. If you have little kids, you have definitely been to a pumpkin patch around Halloween – and thankfully I have never seen “Made in China” stamped on a pumpkin at one of those patches.

Swords, cutlasses, bayonets, lances and similar arms, parts thereof and scabbards and sheaths therefor: Better stock up now on your very old-school weaponry if you want to re-enact the Battle of Hastings. And will that mean prices might be about to go up at the next renaissance faire?

Tailors’ chalks: “Sir? Yes, I’m sorry, but we can’t finish tailoring that $2,000 suit you’ve ordered because we can’t afford the chalk to mark up the material.

Bombs, grenades, torpedoes, mines, missiles and similar munitions of war and parts thereof; other ammunition projectiles & parts thereof: And we thought it was strange that we imported swords, cutlasses, bayonets and the like from China.

Articles for Christmas festivities, ornaments of glass: It might cost you a bit more this year to light up your house to look like Clark Griswold’s in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.”

Margarine cheese: The term “margarine cheese” raises many, many questions: Isn’t cheese made of milk? Isn’t margarine dairy-free? Is “margarine cheese” the dairy section equivalent of “jumbo shrimp”? Will those nachos coated in “cheese” at the ballpark cost more come postseason time? Will you care as long as they taste good?

Hairnets of any material, whether or not lined or trimmed: Won’t someone think of America’s cafeteria workers? A hairnet is about the least stylish accessory anyone can wear, it’s nearly impossible to make one last for more than one shift on the food line, and now they might cost even more. Keep that in mind when you see that tip jar as you’re paying for your tray of roast beef.