Soybeans. Photo: Reuters/Dan Koeck
Soybeans. Photo: Reuters/Dan Koeck

US President Donald Trump’s threat to impose 10% tariffs on US$200 billion worth of Chinese goods had already struck fear in the heart of many domestic businesses, but in his mind the number was “weak.” Following his decision this week to raise that rate to 25%, and in anticipation of China’s threat of retaliatory tariffs on US$60 billion worth of US goods, American industry groups and lawmakers voiced their discontent.

“Sir Isaac Newton may have been talking about physics when he said, ‘for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction,’ but his law has taken on a whole new economic meaning as trade tensions between the US and China continue to escalate,” Casey Guernsey, spokesman for Americans for Farmers & Families, said in a statement on Wednesday.

Guernsey was right, and China promptly unveiled a list of US products worth US$60 billion that would face as much as a 25% tariff rate, including agricultural products.

But farmers aren’t the only casualties of the trade battle.

“Raising the tariff rate for List 3 to 25 percent would be devastating for US chemicals manufacturers. Approximately $16.4 billion of the imports targeted are chemicals and plastics products. Small and medium-sized enterprises, in particular, are at risk of being put out of business by a cost-increase of that kind. These businesses deserve, and will vigorously utilize, the opportunity to tell their stories to policymakers firsthand,” Cal Dooley, President of the American Chemistry Council said in a statement.

Lawmakers from both parties continued to voice their opposition to Trump’s tariffs, urging the administration to get back to the negotiating table. They also stressed that the White House needs to be clear about what it actually wants from China.

“Let’s stop raising tariffs until we talk,” Senator Rob Portman told Inside US Trade. “And let’s be clear on our objectives. As I said on the floor, is it structural changes or is it increased exports? I think it needs to be both.”

Democratic Senator Brian Schatz slammed the trade tactics for lacking a comprehensive plan.

“I just don’t see any evidence that there’s a strategic vision behind any of this and in the hearing, you saw this in three dimensions because when [US Trade Representative Robert] Lighthizer was asked about the [Agriculture Department’s tariff retaliation aid plan] he was quoted as saying, ‘That’s not my side of the shop.’ And when I asked him about the national security tariffs he said, ‘Well, that was Commerce.’ So no one’s in charge,” he added.

“They have a plan and we just have a notion,” Schatz said. “We have a notion that we’re getting ripped off, but that’s like you know you have a notion you got ripped off at the bar so what you do is you walk into the bar and start punching people. So this is as reckless and dangerous of an economic approach as I’ve ever seen [in] any president.”

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