President Trump is gearing up to impose tariffs on an additional $300 billion worth of Chinese products, a round of taxes that would hit consumer products ranging from shoes to jewelry and laptops.
Hundreds of businesses, trade groups and individuals are descending on Washington to beg the administration not to follow through with the new taxes.
They’ll testify over seven days before the Office of the United States Trade Representative, where they will present evidence about how the tariffs would affect their business — and the American consumer — and ask the government to exempt their product or drop the threat of additional tariffs altogether.
Some have been through this before: Companies like iRobot, Best Buy and Gortons have already been threatened or hit with tariffs during Mr. Trump’s previous rounds of levies, which covered $250 billion worth of Chinese goods.
But the scope of new tariffs means that more companies are now facing the levies. Executives scheduled to testify come from makers of sporting goods like New Balance, tech devices like Roku or household appliances like Carrier, as well as book publishers like HarperCollins.
Here’s what the importers are saying as they try to discourage the White House from adding the tariffs.
Robots and electronics
“If Section 301 tariffs are imposed on our newly launched products, the Braava robotic mops and Terra robotic lawn mowers, it will only further exacerbate the harm being done to iRobot from the imposition of Round 3 tariffs on our Roomba vacuum cleaners. IRobot absorbed some of the cost of the Round 3 tariffs, but was forced to raise prices at the beginning of this year.” — Written request to testify from Colin M. Angle, chief executive of iRobot
Many companies already affected by the tariffs have opted to eat the levy rather than pass the additional price on to consumers. But under a recent round of increases, some companies now face a 25 percent tariff on a range of products and have passed those costs on to consumers. They include iRobot, which makes the robotic Roomba vacuum cleaner, as well as retailers that sell consumer electronic products, like Target and Wal-Mart, which have started raising prices as a result of the trade fight.
“Look out, American toy shoppers, here comes the Grinch That Tariffed Christmas! Do you like Black Friday sales, holiday bargains and cheap deals? Kiss all that goodbye, folks! These proposed tariffs affect everything you want for the holidays — toys, games, books, shoes, iPhones, computers ... and the list goes on. If you love high prices, then you’ll love these tariffs! Like it or not, Chinese-made goods give us the low prices we American shoppers have grown accustomed to.” — Written testimony of Wendy Lazar, I Heart Guts
Nearly 85 percent of all toys sold in the United States are imported from China — including games, puzzles, tricycles, dolls, scooters, coloring books and video game consoles. Those were largely spared in the previous round of tariffs but would suffer a direct hit in the next round.
That has toymakers spooked and warning that tariffs would be devastating to companies and consumers, who would see price spikes on their Barbie dolls and play clothing come Christmas.
“While we agree that China needs to abide by the trading rules that protect U.S. companies, tariffs are resulting in significant harm to the U.S. toy industry. Proposing direct tariffs on toys and games will be devastating.” — Written request to testify from Rebecca Mond, the Toy Association
Jewelry and accessories
“Chinese jewelry and raw material suppliers have been valued and necessary partners in developing a robust and growing U.S. jewelry industry. With high-quality manufacturing, unique raw materials, expertise and manufacturing infrastructure — none of which exists in the United States for our goods — China is a vital source for our industry.” — Written request to testify from Timothy D. Matthews, Jewelry Television
China is a major supplier of jewelry, along with other accessories like watches, scarves and sunglasses. Many American producers shifted production to China years ago to take advantage of cheaper labor and materials, enabling them to sell cheap costume jewelry, along with affordable, high-quality pieces. Jewelry and other accessory companies say a 25 percent tariff would make their products unaffordable and could result in job losses at American-owned production facilities in China.
While some are trying to shift production to other countries, like Vietnam, they warn that it is time consuming, disruptive and not an easy fix for entrenched supply chains.
“Even if alternative manufacturing sources were available, it would take an estimated nine to 18-plus months to certify and approve new suppliers. Our members have longstanding partnerships with their China factories who have developed specific skills to manufacture these products. Sourcing outside of China would make the items cost prohibitive for the majority of U.S. retail customers.” — Written testimony of Karen Giberson, Accessories Council
“Simply put, the cost of imposing tariffs on gantry cranes poses a significant risk to continued economic growth for the communities of Virginia and beyond as well as the national economy by threatening a major East Coast port project. Putting a 25 percent duty on these high-cost, low-tech pieces of equipment would do nothing to address China’s egregious violations of intellectual property and forced technology transfers.” — Written request to testify from John F. Reinhart, Virginia Port Authority
Even the products that are used to get Chinese imports from ship to shore are at risk of being taxed. The majority of Chinese imports arrive at ports in the United States via large container ships. Those containers are removed from the ships by large cranes, which also happen to come from China.
This next round of tariffs would place a 25 percent tariff on those cranes, prompting concern at ports that the increase could drive up costs, slow down delivery and result in layoffs or reduced wages.
“Currently, the vast majority of books we print in China are children’s picture books. Printers in China have unrivaled capacity and expertise to print these books. The addition of a 25 percent tariff on the cost of producing books will send shock waves through the children’s book market..” — Written request to testify from Madeline McIntosh, Penguin Random House
Public librarians, booksellers and publishers warn that the next round of tariffs would hit all books, but particularly children’s picture books. Many of those books are published in China, making them affordable for consumers, including public libraries.
Kim Zablud, director of public services for the District of Columbia Public Library, warned in a letter that a 25 percent tariff would have “an outsized impact on low-income families that depend on public libraries for developmentally appropriate books that promote early literacy and reading at grade level.”
Pine Nuts, Salmon and Other Foods
“With all due respect, we find it profoundly unfair to have to repeat the process of petitioning for removal of pine nuts from the list of products to be tariffed. We submitted testimony, attended the hearing and engaged in the available public process to the fullest extent for the previous list of products. As a result, pine nuts were appropriately removed from the list. In that case, the system worked: We petitioned the government, were heard and were treated fairly. We were, quite frankly, stunned to find that pine nuts are now again under consideration.” — Written request to testify from Dan Phipps, Red River Foods
A range of foods would be subject to tariffs in this next round, including pine nuts, cane sugar, vanilla beans and a lot of different fish, like salmon, cod and haddock. The tariffs would ripple across food products, affecting products like Sabra’s Roasted Pine Nut Hummus and ice cream made with imported vanilla beans. The tariffs would also hit seafood importers, from big companies like Gortons to small family-owned businesses like Rhode Island-based Southstream Seafoods.
“A tariff on Chinese seafood, to be absorbed by the American consumer, will certainly present us with our largest challenge to date. It will potentially cripple the company and its 13 employees that all have families that depend on our success.” — Written testimony of Mark Soderstrom, Southstream Seafoods