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Trump administration exempts Bibles from Chinese tariffs

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August 29, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – As the United States implements a 10 percent tariff on Chinese imports, the Trump administration announced this month that Bibles will not be among the affected items.

Earlier this month, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) amended a list of products that were to be subject to the tariff starting September 1, to remove certain items “based on health, safety, national security and other factors.” The USTR also delayed implementation of the tariff on certain remaining items until December 15.

Bibles and religious literature are among the items now exempt, Christianity Today reports, following concerns that the move would amount to a “Bible tax.” More than 75 percent of Bibles are printed in China, according to the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SPC’s) Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), because of the nation’s experience printing so much text on such thin paper.

“To import Bibles from a country other than China would require time, extensive quality tests, and higher prices incompatible with the high and consistent demand for Bibles in the United States,” the ERLC explained. “Because such a large percentage of Bibles are printed in China, the proposed tariff would have devastated the importation of Bibles into the United States and other parts of the world where American ministries distribute God’s Word.”

“For the past several months, there has been great concern among the Christian publishing community that our important work would be threatened by proposed tariff schedules,” said Ben Mandrell, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. “Today's announcement by [USTR] has given us hope that the administration has heard our concern.”

More generally, Trump’s trade actions against China have divided many on the political Right. Fox News commentator Neil Cavuto argues that China will simply pass the costs onto American consumers. “Governments don't pay these things; you do, one way or another,” he said.

The Chinese Ministry of Commerce said this week it will not retaliate against the US tariffs for the time being, and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He says the nation “is willing to resolve its trade dispute with the United States through calm negotiations and resolutely opposes the escalation of the conflict.” 

Regardless of the outcome for Christians around the world, Christians living under the Chinese regime face a far harsher situation.

“There remains, however, the arguably far more grievous issue of life for Chinese Christians and workers in general,” Elizabeth Johnson noted on Activist Mommy. “Let’s pray that the Chinese people will have easier access to the word of God, which they ironically produce in such large quantities and yet don’t always have easy access to themselves as one of the most persecuted groups of Christians in the world.”

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