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Tariffs, Tariff Threats, Talks: Trump Faces Key Week on Trade

Posted: Monday, August 20, 2018 – 1:12 PM

(AFP) The United States on Monday launched into a key week for trade policy, with Washington due to slap fresh tariffs on a host of Chinese goods even as it holds hearings to target thousands more.

US and Chinese officials will simultaneously hold talks in an effort to defuse the dispute.

In addition, US negotiators will continue talks with Mexico aimed at rewriting the nearly 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement, which officials are hopeful they can conclude by year end.

President Donald Trump’s aggressive actions against China and other trading partners are increasingly worrying businesses and farmers hurt by the tariffs and retaliation.

Dozens of industry representatives will voice those concerns on Monday in the first of six days of public hearings on the impact of the next round of tariffs, in which the Trump administration is poised to impose 25 percent duties on $200 billion more in Chinese goods.

Interests as diverse as the American Bridal Prom Industry Association, the Juice Products Association, the American Petroleum Institute and the Vapor Technology Association have signed up to urge the US Trade Representative’s office to reconsider the tariffs, which could take effect as soon as September.

The tariff proposal “dramatically expands the harm to American consumers, workers, businesses, and the economy,” the US Chamber of Commerce said in a statement.

“Help me keep my company alive,” Ross Bishop of BrightLine Bags, which produces roll-aboard suitcases, pleaded at the start of the week’s hearings in Washington.

He said his company would face an “unjustifiable” tax of nearly 43 percent.

Others at the hearing lamented the multimillion dollar cost increase which will be a tax on consumers.

Stephen Lang, representing bridal and prom dress businesses, said that industry — which is not yet targeted for tariffs — relied on China because labor costs were prohibitive in the United States.

“Their labor is like oil for the rest of the world,” and tariffs would decimate our industry, he said.

– ‘Consequential impacts’ –

But earlier rounds of tariffs have shown that complaints to the Trump administration have largely fallen on deaf ears, as only a handful of product lines have been shielded from the new punitive duties.

Trump insists the tough tactics will pressure China to reform what US officials say are unfair practices, including theft of American technology.

But the tariff rates and the breadth of the goods covered would put the US “on par with countries that don’t have normal trade like Cuba or North Korea,” Karen Giberson of the Accessories Council told USTR on Monday.

Another $16 billion in Chinese goods will face new taxes starting Thursday at 12:01 am (0401 GMT), rounding out the first round of $50 billion in products targeted. China has said it will react immediately with tit-for-tat tariffs on US goods.

And still pending are Trump’s proposed 25 percent taxes on all auto imports to protect the US industry.

Business economists overwhelmingly worry trade wars will harm the US economy, according to a survey released Monday, which warned of “unfavorable consequential impacts.”

The administration already was forced to announce a $12 billion aid program for farmers hurt by the trade wars, as US agricultural products, like soybeans, were an easy target for China and others.

US and Chinese officials are set to hold two days of talks in Washington starting Wednesday in an effort to find a way out of the escalating trade confrontation.

These are the first formal discussions since June, and will be led by China’s Vice Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen, the deputy representative on international trade negotiations, and David Malpass, a senior US Treasury official.

– NAFTA rewrite –

Efforts to revise NAFTA seem a bit more hopeful, after USTR Robert Lighthizer telling Trump last week he hoped to get a breakthrough in the talks in coming days.

Mexico’s Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said he will return to Washington on Tuesday to continue the discussions on the key US-Mexico issues, which he said could be wrapped up by mid-week, after which Canada will rejoin the talks.

There remain “a couple of things that have to be settled,” including the US demand for a “sunset clause” that would end the trade pact after five years unless it was reauthorized.

The three countries have been negotiating for a year to salvage the trade pact that Trump called a “disaster” for the United States.

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© Agence France-Presse

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