When the federal government announced in March that it would be waiving tariffs for imported “medical-care products,” the stated intention was to make it easier to access “products needed to address the COVID–19 outbreak.” Of course, this being America, not everyone was in total agreement about what actually qualifies as a “medical-care product,” and multiple companies are claiming that their own items, which unequivocally are not medical-care products, should be exempt from tariffs.
As reported by ProPublica and The Counter, the items being claimed as tariff-exempt run the gamut from rice noodles, canned lychee fruit, and artificial flavorings to drip-coffee makers, air fryers, and camping grills. In fact, camping grill manufacturer Camp Chef is quoted as having written in its application, “outdoor activities are essential to both physical and mental health,” which apparently is the best justification the business could come up with for claiming its grills are (somehow) necessary for combating COVID-19.
Even our old friend Bumble Bee Tuna, which recently made headlines when its ex-CEO was convicted for industry-wide price fixing, is in on the con. Just look at this quote ProPublica published from Bumble Bee Tuna’s newest CEO, Jan Tharp:
“In the current climate, where Americans are increasingly homebound and concerned with regular access to healthy, affordable food, a reliable and plentiful supply of canned tuna is crucial to the health of American communities.”
Bumble Bee’s ex-CEO is literally going to jail for making canned tuna less affordable. Even in an era of being constantly bombarded by galling business practices, COVID-19 has revealed even more ugly opportunism.