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House Republicans propose to boost tariffs on Chinese-made drones

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A drone operator flies his drone as Chinese drone maker DJI holds a demonstration to display an app that tracks a drone’s registration and owner in Montreal, Canada, November 13, 2019. (REUTERS/Christinne Muschi/File Photo)
By David Shepardson | REUTERS

A group of House Republicans on Wednesday proposed legislation that would hike U.S. tariffs on Chinese-made drones by 30% and bar imports of drones that contain critical components made in China by 2030.

The legislation led by Representative Elise Stefanik would also create a new grant program for first responders, critical infrastructure providers, and farmers and ranchers to get assistance in purchasing U.S. made drones.

The proposal would hike tariffs on Chinese-made drones by 30% initially and then hike them by 5% annually. It also sponsored by House China Committee select chair John Moolennar.

Stefanik said the bill will “increase the competitiveness of U.S. drone manufacturers by establishing a revenue neutral grant program to help Americans purchase drones securely made by the U.S. and our allies.

In March, a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers asked the Biden administration to impose higher tariffs on Chinese drones, including those shipped from other countries, and new incentives to boost U.S. drone manufacturers.

The lawmakers urged immediate action against Chinese drone makers, including DJI and Autel, and said the current 25% additional tariff on Chinese drones is “insufficient to combat the surge” in imports.

Chinese drone companies hold more than 77% of the U.S. hobby drone market and over 90% of the market for commercial drones, lawmakers said.

DJI said in March it opposed restrictions based on country of origin and said it closely follows “all applicable data privacy protection laws, regulations, and norms in the U.S. and anywhere else we operate.”

In November, the committee and other lawmakers asked the Biden administration to investigate and potentially sanction Autel Robotics, and lawmakers introduced legislation seeking to ban the U.S. government from buying Chinese drones.

Congress in 2019 banned the Pentagon from buying or using drones and components manufactured in China.

Aviation legislation set to be approved by Congress Wednesday will prohibit the Transportation Department from buying or offering grants for Chinese-made drones but provides exemptions and waivers in limited scenarios.

Editor’s Note: Reporting by David Shepardson, Editing by Franklin Paul and Bill Berkrot

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