Thu, Sep 13, 2018 - Page 10 News List

US businesses launching battle against new tariffs

‘ENOUGH IS ENOUGH’:A coalition of business groups plans to push Republican lawmakers to convince Trump that his tariffs could undo his deregulation push


After months of waging a behind-the-scenes war against US President Donald Trump’s trade tariffs that have escalated far beyond what business groups imagined, more than 60 US industry groups were to launch a coalition yesterday to take the fight public.

Emergence of the group Americans for Free Trade comes after Trump has warmed to the use of tariffs, implementing billions of US dollars worth in a bid to win concessions or in the belief that they would create US jobs.

“A lot of other interest groups thought they wouldn’t go this long or go this deep, but the layering effect [of tariffs] has finally gotten everyone to say: ‘Enough is enough,’” said Nicole Vasilaros, top lobbyist for the National Marine Manufacturers Association, whose members are weighing laying off workers after seeing costs rise as much as 35 percent.

Trump has imposed 25 percent tariffs on US$50 billion of Chinese goods, mostly industrial machinery and intermediate electronics parts, such as semiconductors.

A pending US$200 billion list would extend further into consumer goods, and the threat of an additional US$267 billion would basically cover every Chinese export to the US.

China has threatened retaliation, which could include action against US companies operating there.

The business coalition includes groups representing some of the nation’s largest companies, such as the American Petroleum Institute, which represents the largest refiners like Exxon Mobil Corp and Chevron Corp, and the Retail Industry Leaders Association, which represents companies like Target Corp and Autozone Inc.

“There has been a lot of work that has been going on over the past eight months to try to persuade the president and the administration that tariffs are not going to work,” said Dean Garfield, chief executive of the Information Technology Industry Council, whose members include Microsoft Corp, Google owner Alphabet Inc and Apple Inc.

While Trump threatened tariffs on the campaign trail and ended the US’ participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, few observers took his threat seriously.

Trump has since demonstrated he is serious on tariffs, ramping up the attacks on China, threatening car import levies and pushing for a more pro-US North American Free Trade Agreement, even at the risk of killing the three-country pact.

The coalition grew out of weekly meetings featuring industries organized by the National Retail Federation, whose members include, Macy’s Inc and Walmart Inc.

The group is to target Republican members of Congress in five states: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana and Tennessee, and plans to expand that effort to a dozen states by the end of the year.

The coalition hopes to push Republican lawmakers to press Trump to abandon tariffs by convincing him that his trade policy could undo his tax and deregulation push.

“The sugar high of the lower taxes and the reduced rules that have fueled the stock market since the president was elected are in jeopardy,” said Gary Shapiro, head of the Consumer Technology Association, whose members include IBM Corp and Facebook Inc.

Some of his members were considering layoffs, he added.

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