Trump tariff plan draws backlash from US retailers

Failing US president Donald Trump is facing widespread backlash from US retailers and brands over his intention to trigger a trade war with China and other nations.

Just days after announcing tariffs on steel imports against the advice of officials, lawmakers and industry, Trump is now believed to be formulating sweeping tariffs on imported goods from China – a move retail and business groups warn will wipe away gains for the economy from the recent tax cuts.

“This is not American industries crying wolf,” said Sandy Kennedy, president of the Retail Industry Leaders Association, which organised a letter to Trump, sounding alarm that such tariffs will boost prices of numerous consumer goods, including shoes, apparel and appliances.

Twenty-four US retailers signed Kennedy’s letter, including Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Abercrombie & Fitch, American Eagle Outfitters, Columbia Sportswear, Costco, Dollar Tree, Gap, JC Penney, Kohl’s, Ikea, Levi Strauss, Sears, VF Corp and Wolverine World Wide.

A second letter was signed by 82 shoe companies, including Nike, Payless ShoeSource, Under Armour and Shoe Carnival.

“Adding even more tariffs on top of this heavy burden would mean higher costs for footwear consumers and fewer US jobs,” one of the letters said.

“Given the price sensitivity of our products, any additional increases in our costs would strike right at the heart of our ability to keep product competitively priced for our consumers.”

One of the issues worrying retailers and manufacturers is that Trump does not need approval from Congress to implement tariffs. He can impose unilateral tariffs on China citing national security grounds – the same rationale behind the steel tariffs – because a US government investigation had found Chinese had violated intellectual property rules.

Trump has previously stated he does not fear a trade war because he believes America would win it.

Widespread media debate about tariffs and the rationale behind them would also distract public attention from numerous controversies surrounding the Trump presidency, including a growing list of women revealing extramarital affairs with him, election tampering and his links to a company under investigation by the FTC for stealing personal details of 50 million Facebook users. 

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