Trade War, PPE, and Race

Hernández-López, Ernesto A. | April 17, 2021

Tariffs on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), such as face masks and gloves, weaken the American response to COVID. The United States has exacerbated PPE shortages with Section 301 tariffs on these goods, part of a trade war with China. This has a disparate impact felt by minority communities because of a series of health inequity harms. COVID’s racial disparity appears in virus exposure, virus susceptibility, and COVID treatments. This Article makes legal, policy, and race-and-health arguments. Congress has delegated to the United States Trade Representative expansive authority to increase tariffs. This has made PPE supplies casualties of the trade war. In political terms, the Trump administration prioritized increasing tariffs over public health readiness. Regarding race, PPE shortages exemplify the socioeconomic effects of trade policies and add to COVID’s racial disparities.