The White House has been warned that newly proposed US tariffs on China could result in a so-called “Bible Tax”, Bloomberg reports. The duties on $325 billion worth of Chinese products, recently proposed by Donald Trump, would affect the publishing industry, including the printing of Bibles.
China, the second-largest economy in the world, is said to have a unique position as printers there can meet the requirements for producing Bibles, namely thin paper, leather covers, map insertions and others at more competitive pricing than manufactures outside the Asian economic superpower.
CEO of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association Stan Jantz has shared with the Religion News Service that in over the past 30 or so years, more than half of the 100 million Bibles printed annually have been manufactured in China, with 20 million of them sold or given away in the US. The publisher also noted that tariffs on books, which are said to have been exempted from such measures in the past, could make Bibles less affordable and accessible.
"Some believe such a tariff would place a practical limitation on religious freedom," his statement reads.
The owner of the US two largest Bible producers,Thomas Nelson and Zondervan, publishing giant HarperCollins, shared the same concern in a special statement.
"If printed books, including Bibles, are not removed from the fourth list of products from China to be subject to tariffs and the tariffs go into effect, publishers will reduce investment in their businesses, consumers and religious organisations will face higher prices, and churches, schools, ministries and non-profit organisations will have fewer resources to educate others and connect them with the Holy Bible," President of HarperCollins Christian Publishing Mark Schoenwald said.
However, he also expressed his belief that “the administration was unaware of the potential negative impact these proposed tariffs would have on the publishing industry” and never intended to impose a “Bible tax.”
Both top business executives have already shared their concerns with the US government as earlier this week they took part in a hearing on the proposed tariffs at the International Trade Commission.
For more than a year, the US and China have been trying to overcome disagreements that emerged in the wake of Trump’s decision last June to impose 25 per cent tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods in a bid to address the trade deficit. Since then, the two sides have exchanged several rounds of duties.
The United States escalated the dispute in May when it included another $200 billion worth of Chinese goods in the 25 per cent tariff category. China pledged to retaliate by hiking tariffs on $60 billion worth of US imports in June.
Earlier this month, Donald Trump said that if Washington and Beijing fail to agree trade deal, the United States will introduce fresh levies targeting $325 billion worth of Chinese products. The US president, however, noted that he has a 'feeling' Washington will secure a trade agreement at the G20 summit in Japan.