Published: 11:49, May 17, 2024
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US importers voice concern over tariffs
By Heng Weili in New York

Industries fear new round of duties could impact supply chains, prices

An employee works on a photovoltaic production line at a tech company in Huzhou, Zhejiang province. (XIE SHANGGUO / FOR CHINA DAILY)

The US administration's new and continuing tariffs on China have been opposed by some US industry groups, which fear they could raise the already high prices for US consumers and hamper supply chains.

"Tariffs are regressive taxes that are paid by US importers and US manufacturers and ultimately passed along to US consumers," Steve Lamar, president and CEO of the American Apparel & Footwear Association, said in a statement. "At a time when hardworking American families are struggling with inflation, continued tariffs on consumer necessities are entirely unwelcome."

READ MORE: Experts: US tariffs won't hurt too much

The levies announced on Tuesday are on $18 billion worth of Chinese imports, including electric vehicles, lithium batteries, photovoltaic cells, critical minerals, semiconductors, steel and aluminum products.

The latest tariffs are the result of a four-year review of Section 301 tariffs, released by the Office of the United States Trade Representative. Section 301 is part of the US Trade Act of 1974.

The duties are in addition to those on over $300 billion worth of Chinese goods imposed during the Donald Trump administration.

"Over the last five years, US businesses and consumers have paid more than $215 billion in higher tariffs for a failed experiment in trade policy," Blake Harden, vice-president of international trade for the Retail Industry Leaders Association, said in a statement.

"Leading retailers have worked hard to bolster their supply chains to be more agile and resilient in the face of uncertain economic conditions, and shield customers from feeling the impact of these high tariffs; but after carrying the weight of Section 301 tariffs for over five years, one thing is abundantly clear: tariffs are taxes ultimately paid by American businesses and consumers — not China," he said.

"Broad-based tariffs are not strategic and will impede US economic growth — ultimately hamstringing American businesses trying to compete globally and negatively impacting the paycheck of American workers," Harden said.

The tariffs are "unfortunate for American consumers, who are still feeling the pain of inflation eating into their annual household earnings", Yael Ossowski, deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center, a nonpartisan advocacy group, told The Washington Times. "This is going to add price inflation across the board all in the name of 'tough guy' election-year politics."

The US Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics announced on Wednesday that the consumer price index increased 3.4 percent in April year-over-year, after rising 3.5 percent in March.

Heavy cost

Ryan Hass at the Brookings Institution wrote last month that the trade war with China came at a heavy cost to the US economy, with job losses, and a regressive tax on consumers from higher import costs.

US Senator Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, expressed concern on Tuesday over the impact of tariffs on his Midwestern farming state, which is an exporter of agricultural products.

"I'm for free trade, because Iowa manufactures and does services, and does agriculture way beyond what we consume domestically, and we must be exporting," Grassley told AgriTalk, a radio show and podcast. "I think that this is going to invite retaliation by China, and it's possible retaliation could be (against) agriculture," he said.

ALSO READ: China's business community urges US to stop tariff hike on Chinese goods

A 2021 working paper, "Trade Protectionism and US Manufacturing Employment" by Chunding Li, Jing Wang and John Whalley found that protectionist measures reduce jobs in manufacturing.

The economists' models showed that in a scenario of unilateral US action against Chinese imports, tariff rates of 30 percent, 45 percent and 60 percent would reduce US manufacturing employment by 1.3 percent, 1.8 percent and 2.15 percent, respectively.

In a bilateral trade standoff scenario with China, tariffs of 30 percent, 45 percent and 60 percent would reduce US manufacturing jobs by 2.6 percent, 3.3 percent and 3.8 percent, respectively. That would translate into between about 300,000 and 850,000 jobs lost, the economists found.

"This suggests that the US wanting to save manufacturing employment through trade protection measures may be unachievable," the paper concluded.

"Most economists view tariffs as a bad idea because they prevent a country from reaping the benefits of specialization, disrupt the movement of goods and services, and lead to a misallocation of resources," wrote Ryan Sweet, chief US economist at Oxford Economics, CNN reported.

Agencies contributed to this story.