Three of the country's leading retailer groups warned the Trump administration today to weigh the consequences of slapping massive tariffs on Chinese goods in retaliation for allegedly unfair trade practices in technology and intellectual property, saying broad-based tariffs could harm an enormous swath of U.S. consumers that the White House seeks to protect.
The National Retail Federation (NRF), the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), and the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) said in a letter to the White House that threatened tariffs on more than $60 billion of Chinese imports such as consumer goods would result in significant price increases on many products that Americans regularly buy.
The groups said they support "targeted trade remedies" against "proven trade violations" such as intellectual property and technology theft, the alleged violations by China that the White House has highlighted. However, U.S. retaliation that includes tariffs on electronics, apparel, footwear, toys, and home goods would punish the very American families the White House purports to help, they said.
More than 41 percent of clothing, 72 percent of footwear, and 84 percent of travel goods sold in the U.S. are made in China, according to the groups.
The Trump administration is said to be preparing tariffs against Chinese information technology, telecommunications, and consumer products in an attempt to force changes in Beijing's intellectual property and investment practices. The administration has indicated it will consider remedial action under section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, which gives the President unilateral and discretionary power to force another country to end a policy or practice which violates international trade agreements or burdens U.S. commerce.
"This is not American industries crying wolf," said RILA President Sandy Kennedy in a statement. "Higher tariffs will mean higher costs to businesses and in turn higher prices for American families."
The rising costs stemming from the tariff measures would wipe out much of the benefits that American families will realize from the recently signed tax reform law, Kennedy said.