(Bloomberg) -- A bipartisan group of 41 senators urged President Joe Biden’s trade chief to create a more comprehensive process to exclude some Chinese imports from punitive tariffs that the lawmakers say have a negative impact on U.S. businesses. 

The “narrow nature” of an exclusion process the U.S. Trade Representative announced in October “may prevent struggling business and manufacturers from receiving relief that they desperately need, given the continuation of the Covid-19 pandemic,” senators led by Ohio Republican Rob Portman and Delaware Democrat Tom Carper wrote Monday. They said just 1% of imports under the original exclusion process are eligible for consideration.  

The USTR didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The world’s two largest economies share the biggest bilateral trade relationship, but it has been fractious since 2018, with the U.S. imposing tariffs on more than $300 billion in imports from China, ranging from footwear and clothing to electronics and bicycles and even pet food under section 301 of the Trade Act. 

The nations are at odds on economic, military and political fronts. Flashpoints include the duties on each other’s goods, U.S. concerns about China using American technology know-how to beef up its military, abuse of state-owned enterprises, subsidies, forced-labor allegations in the Xinjiang region, and conflict over supplying next-generation telecommunications equipment to other nations. 

From October to December last year, the USTR sought public comment on whether to reinstate previously extended tariff exclusions on some products coming in from China. Of the more than 2,200 exclusions originally granted, 549 were extended, most of which expired on Dec. 31, 2020.

“Restarting a full exclusion process can allow the U.S. to continue to maintain pressure on China, while providing relief to the economic pain facing businesses and workers across the country,” the senators said. “Unfortunately, the current narrow exclusion process denies many a fair shake, and instead picks winners and losers among businesses.”

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