U.S. President Donald Trump’s intention to further hike U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods has alarmed American lawmakers of both parties who fear dire economic consequences from escalating tensions between the United States and its trading partners.
“I’m anxious for the tariff war to come to an end,” Republican Sen. Jerry Moran of agriculturally rich Kansas told VOA on Tuesday. “Exports are very important to the economy of my state. I would encourage the rapid resolution between the United States and China, because it has an immediate and consequential effect on the livelihoods of lots of people.”
“The [president’s] whole tariff policy has been dangerous folly,” New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez said. “I hear it from New Jersey companies that recently, just this past week, told me about tariffs they have to pay on particular products that they can’t get anywhere else [but foreign suppliers].”
On Sunday, Trump announced that tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods would rise from 10% to 25% as of Friday. He tweeted that “China has been paying” U.S. tariffs and that China’s “payments are partially responsible for our great economic results.”
Such assertions are disputed by many lawmakers, including Republicans who, on other matters, often come to the president’s defense.
“Currently, U.S. importers have paid the U.S. government over $16 billion in tariffs on imports from China,” Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Lankford said via Twitter. “This tax is not paid for by Chinese exporters, this is all paid by U.S. importers.”
Trade talks to continue
Despite Trump’s tariff threat, Chinese officials have signaled they intend to continue trade discussions with Washington, prompting some lawmakers to applaud what they see as the White House’s hardball negotiating stance toward Beijing.
“The only reason that China is at the [negotiating] table is because of these tariffs, let’s not kid ourselves,” Republican Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana said. “China has been cheating … and it’s got to stop. And President Trump has been the first president to call their hand.”
Some Democrats, meanwhile, credit Trump for confronting China over its trade practices but fault the strategy and tactics the president has employed.
“I commend President Trump for saying the status quo with China is not working,” Virginia Democratic Sen. John Warner said. “China is not playing by the rules, and my fear is the president may end up with a deal where the president sells an extra $100 billion of [American] soybeans, but these broader issues around technology … and [China’s] ongoing theft of intellectual property go unaddressed.”
“Tariff policy by tweet does not work,” said Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who is seeking next year’s Democratic presidential nomination. “We’ve had two years of experience now [with Trump], and it just seems to be getting worse and worse.”
Tariff concerns on Capitol Hill extend beyond China. A group of Republican lawmakers has urged Trump to halt tariffs targeting Canadian and Mexican goods, warning the measures could torpedo Congress’s consideration of a newly negotiated free trade pact between the United States and both nations.
Regarding the president’s new tariff threat on Chinese exports, some Republicans are willing to give the president the benefit of the doubt — for now.
“Perhaps the president is espousing additional tariffs for purposes of getting China’s attention and to negotiate an agreement. That would be a wonderful outcome,” Moran said. “The challenge is: it’s not just one country that can impose tariffs. So, when the United States [previously] imposed tariffs, China retaliated on products from the United States. And that is very damaging to the ability to earn a living.” (VOA)
More than 170 American shoe manufacturers and retailers, including such well-known athletic shoe brands as Nike, Under Armour and Adidas, urged President Donald Trump on Tuesday to exempt footwear from any further tariffs he imposes on imported goods from China.
The lobby for the shoe industry, the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America, told Trump in a letter that his proposed 25 percent tariff on shoes imported from China “would be catastrophic for our consumers, our companies and the American economy as a whole.” The industry imported $11.4 billion worth of shoes from China last year, although some manufacturers have been shifting production elsewhere, especially to Vietnam and Cambodia.
It said the proposed tariffs on shoes made in China could cost U.S. consumers more than $7 billion annually on top of existing levies.
“There should be no misunderstanding that U.S. consumers pay for tariffs on products that are imported,” the 173 companies said, rejecting Trump’s frequent erroneous statement that China pays the tariffs and that the money goes directly to the U.S. Treasury.
Trump has been engaged in a string of reciprocal tariff increases with China on imported goods arriving in each other’s ports as the world’s two biggest economies have tried for months — unsuccessfully so far — to negotiate a new trade pact.
After Trump imposed new 25 percent taxes on $200 billion worth of Chinese products earlier this month, he also set in motion plans to impose a new round of levies on virtually all Chinese imports, another $300 billion worth of goods, including shoe imports, clothing and electronics.
The U.S. leader said that if American companies did not like the tariffs on Chinese imports, they could move their production inside the United States or to another country whose manufactured products are not taxed when they are sent to the U.S. But the footwear lobby rejected Trump’s suggestion.
“Footwear is a very capital-intensive industry, with years of planning required to make sourcing decisions, and companies cannot simply move factories to adjust to these changes,” the industry told Trump.
The U.S. Trade Representative’s office has published a list of products that would be covered by the expanded tariffs and set a hearing for June 17. (VOA)