21 August 2019
US businesses are strongly opposing the new tariffs on Chinese goods, saying they will force Americans to pay more for items they use throughout their daily lives. Photo: Reuters
US businesses are strongly opposing the new tariffs on Chinese goods, saying they will force Americans to pay more for items they use throughout their daily lives. Photo: Reuters

Trump doesn’t expect much from China trade talks this week

US President Donald Trump said he does not expect much progress from trade talks with China this week in Washington.

Trump told Reuters in an interview on Monday that he had “no time frame” for ending the trade dispute with China. “I’m like them, I have a long horizon,” he added.

Trump said Chinese negotiators would be arriving shortly, adding he did not “anticipate much” from the mid-level discussions.

The talks this week come as new US tariffs on US$16 billion of Chinese goods take effect, along with retaliatory tariffs from Beijing on an equal amount of US goods.

The US Trade Representative’s Office is also holding six days of public hearings this week on proposals for tariffs on a further US$200 billion of Chinese goods.

US businesses strongly opposed the new tariffs, saying they will force Americans to pay more for items they use throughout their daily lives, Reuters reported.

Unlike previous rounds of US tariffs, which sought to shield consumers by targeting Chinese industrial machinery, electronic components and other intermediate goods, thousands of consumer products could be directly hit with higher tariffs by late September.

The US$200 billion list targets Chinese seafood, furniture and lighting products, tires, chemicals, plastics, bicycles and car seats for babies.

“We can’t make wedding gowns and prom dresses in the United States. Nobody wants to do this work,” said Stephen Lang, owner of Mon Cherie Bridals, a Trenton, New Jersey-based dress producer and importer.

“I can’t find people who will do hand-beading. If there were options to go outside of China, the entire world would.”

Lang, who also chairs the American Bridal and Prom Industry Association, was one of several executives to testify on Monday that US manufacturing capacity for their products is long gone, so tariffs would mean higher prices and lower sales, costing US distribution and retail jobs.

“Most consumers cannot or would not pay 25 percent more for a ball cap. And if this increase in tariff takes effect, our business will stagnate or decline altogether,” said James Day, vice president of ’47 Brand LLC, a Brockton, Massachusetts-based sportswear firm.

Day said his company, which sells headwear mostly made in China with licensed pro and college sports team logos, has never had complaints about theft of intellectual property by its Chinese manufacturers.

“USTR’s proposed tariffs on an additional US$200 billion of Chinese imports dramatically expands the harm to American consumers, workers, businesses, and the economy,” the US Chamber of Commerce said in written testimony for the hearing.

‘Grave economic distortions’

The top US business lobbying group said the Trump administration lacks a “coherent strategy” to address China’s theft of intellectual property and other harmful trade practices and called for “serious discussions” with Beijing.

US-China Business Council President Craig Allen, speaking to reporters in Beijing on Monday, said more tariffs could create “grave economic distortions,” but that Trump had been very clear to China about the problems in the trade relationship between the world’s two largest economies.

“They [Chinese officials] have been given these suggestions in writing. I think that they know very well what is being asked. And let the negotiations proceed,” Allen said, calling for a “surge” in Chinese market opening.

Companies selling bicycles and components warned that 94 percent of the 18 million bikes sold in the US annually would face dramatically higher tariffs, raising costs and reducing the use of helmets and other safety gear.

“We fear consumers could forego utilizing these products altogether, choosing to ignore safety laws, perhaps by not buying a bike light and getting hit by a car because a driver does not see them. Or not wearing a helmet and dying from an impact to their skull,” said Jennifer Harned, president of helmet and accessories maker Bell Sports, a unit of Vista Outdoor Inc.

In more than 1,400 written comments submitted to USTR, most businesses argued the tariffs will cause harm and higher costs for products ranging from Halloween costumes and Christmas lights to nuclear fuel inputs, while a small number praised them or asked that they be extended to other products.

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