Retailers scorn latest Trump tariff move

President Donald Trump’s latest threat to impose 10 per cent tariffs on the remaining US$300 billion of Chinese imports from September 1 will hurt consumer purchases, raise prices further and limit hiring, four large US retail trade groups warned on Thursday.

Trump overnight moved to impose fresh tariffs after US and Chinese negotiators failed to kick-start trade talks between the world’s two largest economies.

The National Retail Federation, which counts Walmart Inc and Amazon among its members, called the new Trump tariff a flawed strategy that will hurt American consumers. 

“We are disappointed the administration is doubling-down on a flawed tariff strategy that is already slowing US economic growth, creating uncertainty and discouraging investment,” senior VP for government relations David French said in a statement.

Another influential trade lobby, The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), which counts retailers like Walmart, Target Corp and Home Depot among its members, said the tariffs will raise prices for everyday items like clothing, toys, home goods and electronics.

“This new 10 per cent tariff is a direct hit on consumer products and family budgets… American families shouldn’t be a pawn in this trade war,” Hun Quach, RILA’s VP of international trade, said in a statement.

The office of the US Trade Representative did not have an immediate comment on the retailers’ protests. 

Other trade groups like the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America said the tariffs could have a chilling effect on hiring. 

“President Trump is, in effect, using American families as a hostage in his trade war negotiations,” the group’s president, Matt Priest, said in a statement.

Stephen Lamar, executive VP of the American Apparel & Footwear Association, told Reuters the tariffs would be “hugely disruptive.” He noted that while Trump uses tariffs as a negotiating tool, he had made good on previous threats in regard to Chinese imports.

“We’re telling people they should assume the tariffs will take effect on September 1,” he said, adding that the group’s members were shocked and surprised that Trump had not allowed resumed US-China trade talks to proceed before threatening additional tariffs.

The measure will hit US consumers far harder than Chinese manufacturers, who produce 42 per cent of apparel and 69 per cent of footwear purchased in the US, Lamar said.

Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, in May said prices for shoppers will rise due to higher tariffs on goods from China. The company said it will seek to ease the pain, in part by trying to obtain products from different countries and working with suppliers.

  • Original reporting by Nandita Bose, Andrea Shalal and David Lawder in Washington; Editing by Dan Grebler.

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