Major retailers to Trump: New China tariffs will hurt American shoppers

Global business leaders sound off on tariffs
Global business leaders sound off on tariffs

The nation's largest retailers are asking President Donald Trump not to slap new tariffs on China.

The Trump administration has already imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from most of the world, aimed primarily at curbing the excess production coming from China. But the White House confirmed to CNN last week that the administration is weighing tariffs on at least $30 billion worth of other imports from China. The move would be retaliation for alleged intellectual property theft, such as the sale of counterfeit goods and pirated software, as well as stolen corporate secrets. The decision on further action against China is expected soon, perhaps this week.

Related: Why tech secrets, not steel, could cause real trade clash with China

A letter signed Monday by 49 of the nation's largest retailers, including Walmart (WMT), Target (TGT) and Costco (COST), argues the tariffs would hurt working families who shop in their stores.

"As you continue to investigate harmful technology and intellectual property practices, we ask that any remedy carefully consider the impact on consumer prices. We must do right by American families while also addressing harmful technology practices," said the letter.

A number of business groups are also arguing against further sanctions, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, several tech groups and trade associations that represent retailers, agriculture, telecommunications, clothing and the auto parts industry. A letter dated Sunday and signed by 45 industry trade groups says that imposing tariffs would only hurt US businesses and consumers and would not be an effective way to reign in China's worst practices.

"The imposition of sweeping tariffs would trigger a chain reaction of negative consequences for the U.S. economy, provoking retaliation; stifling U.S. agriculture, goods, and services exports; and raising costs for businesses and consumers," said the letter. "The Administration should not respond to unfair Chinese practices and policies by imposing tariffs or other measures that will harm U.S. companies, workers, farmers, ranchers, consumers, and investors."

The letter says that the groups agree that the administration is right to consider acting against China to protect US intellectual property.
"These persistent problems jeopardize U.S. global competitiveness, innovation, productivity, and cybersecurity," it said. "We...support an effort to address China's discriminatory practices."

Related: Analysis says trade war would wipe out gains from tax cuts

But the groups say they worry that imposing additional tariffs on China are isn't the best way to respond. Instead the letter argues that the US should work with trading partners in other countries which are also upset about China's practices, rather than going it alone.

"Imposition of unilateral tariffs by the administration would only serve to split the United States from its allies, hinder joint action to effectively address shared challenges," said the letter.

It also warned that if China retaliates against US companies in response to tariffs, American companies would lose business that would go instead to companies from other countries.

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