GOP Lawmakers Propose Bill to Boost US Drone Industry, Hike Tariffs on Chinese Drones

‘The United States should not be reliant on Communist China for drones that are critical to our nation’s first responder operations,’ Rep. Rob Wittman said.

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) has introduced legislation to target Chinese drones, support American drone manufacturers, and strengthen U.S. national security.

The legislation titled “Drones for First Responders (DFR) Act” will impose more tariffs on China-made drones and establish a grant program from tariff revenue to support first responders, critical infrastructure providers, farmers, and ranchers in buying secure domestic- and allied-made drones.

Ms. Stefanik said the bill will reduce the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) influence in the United States “and increase the competitiveness of U.S. drone manufacturers by establishing a revenue neutral grant program to help Americans purchase drones securely made by the U.S. and our allies.”

“With this legislation, American drone manufacturers will be able to compete with Communist Chinese-controlled drones and enhance U.S. national security,” Ms. Stefanik said in a statement on May 16.

The bill proposes new tariffs on drones made in China, starting at 30 percent and increasing by 5 percent every year. In the fourth year since the legislation’s enactment, imported Chinese drones will be subjected to an additional $100 for each device plus tariffs.

“The United States should not be reliant on Communist China for drones that are critical to our nation’s first responder operations,” Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) said. “We simply cannot cede control of the drone market to the Chinese Communist Party.”

The bill also aims to strengthen the rule of origin by requiring that imported drones do not contain critical components made in China by 2030.

According to a whitepaper by the Association for Uncrewed Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), China-based drone manufacturers flood the U.S. market with subsidized drones and “no limits” support from the regime.

As a result, the U.S. drone manufacturing industry has been significantly affected by “Chinese drone dumping”, and China has lost almost its entire market share in this crucial industry, according to the whitepaper.

The paper also found that Chinese drones represented over 90 percent of the U.S. consumer market, 92 percent of the first responder market, and 70 percent of the industrial drone market.

“A strong U.S. drone manufacturing industrial base represents a strategic imperative for the U.S. We can, and must, do more to bolster drone security for end users while supporting U.S. values, aviation leadership, and investments in manufacturing jobs,” Michael Robbins, AUVSI’s president and CEO, said.

Co-sponsors of the bill include Select Committee on the CCP chairman John Moolenaar (R-Mich.), Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.), Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Iowa), and Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.).

The move is the latest legislative effort to impose further restrictions on Chinese drones. In March, the Countering CCP Drones Act and Foreign Adversary Communications Transparency Act was advanced through the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Both pieces of legislation prohibit Chinese drone maker DJI’s technologies from operating on U.S. communication and telecommunication infrastructures.Lawmakers have also asked the White House to target Chinese drones over national security concerns.

In December 2023, a bipartisan group of lawmakers urged the Pentagon to deny export licenses and review the export approval process to Chinese drone manufacturer DJI, the world’s largest drone maker, with a 70 percent global market share. In November 2023, 11 lawmakers also asked the Biden administration to investigate another Chinese drone maker, Autel Robotics.

In March, Ms. Stefanik and bipartisan lawmakers called on the Biden administration to take swift action on China-made drones to protect the domestic drone market.

The group urged the Department of Commerce to investigate the effects on U.S. drone manufacturers of importing drones from China, including those passing through third-party countries. The lawmakers suggest that the current 25 percent tariff is inadequate to protect the domestic drone makers and propose a substantial tariff increase for these products to safeguard this crucial industry.

In January, the FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) warned U.S. owners and operators of critical infrastructure sectors not to use Chinese-made unmanned aircraft systems because of security risks.

Following the CISA report, Ms. Stefanik and then-chairman of the House Select Committee on the CCP, former Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), called on the Biden administration to ban Chinese drones from the United States.


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