It is only a slight exaggeration to argue that the tariff system has essentially evolved into a tax on clothes and shoes, which generate most of the government's revenue from tariffs. In 2007, clothes alone accounted for $9.5 billion of the $26 billion in U.S. tariff revenue, shoes added $1.9 billion, luggage and handbags another billion. The cost to the public, magnified by retail markups and sales taxes, is likely about $40 billion a year. It is a burden that disproportionately affects poor and working-class Americans.
Though the tariff system is smaller than other taxes, it is far more regressive. This is because poor people spend a greater share of their income on clothes and shoes than do wealthy or middle-class people. The cheap and simple goods made in poor countries and bought by low-income Americans are subject to far higher tariffs than luxury goods. An acrylic sweater attracts a 32 percent tariff, while a cashmere sweater gets only 4 percent; a polyester bra is tagged with a 17 percent tariff, while one made of silk gets less than three percent; and a cheap stainless steel fork is hit with a 19 percent tariff, while a silver-plated spoon has none at all.
A while back I referred to another study by the same group, and suggested a somewhat far-fetched WTO claim. Here, there may be a simple MFN claim (or claims) to be made. There seem to be a few products mentioned above that are perhaps something close to "like." Could this be used as the basis for an argument that there is discrimination against specific countries, if the product of one country gets worse tariff treatment in comparison to the like product of other countries? Is it worth combing through the tariff schedules to look for tariff distinctions among like products, combined with a discriminatory effect on certain countries? Although perhaps people have already done that, and if there was a claim to make, they would have made it by now.