U.S. industry groups want Congress to play a stronger role in checking President Donald Trump’s tariff powers.
A coalition of 23 lobbying groups, including the National Retail Federation, wrote a letter to House and Senate leadership Wednesday calling for clearer guidelines and more active oversight over the president’s deployment of his preferred too, the trade war. As the list of new tariffs continues to grow and Trump continues to use tariff threats as a negotiating tactic with China, the groups are forming a broad-based organization called the Tariff Reform Coalition to push for support from Congress.
“We believe many of these actions have failed to consider the broader effects on our businesses, our overall economy and our trading relationships,” they wrote. “We also believe that Congress must exercise greater oversight and control to ensure that presidential tariff actions serve our overall national interest.”
Along with the NRF, the coalition includes groups like the U.S. Fashion Industry Association, the Consumer Technology Association and the National Foreign Trade Council.
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The letter cites the Trump administration’s “over-reliance on unilateral tariff increases to address a wide range of policy problems” and its tendency to consult Congress about these actions “after the fact or not at all” as upsetting the balance of power between the two branches of government.
The most recent batch of tariffs — the first set of the fourth tranche — took effect on Sept. 1, levying an additional 15% tax on $112 billion worth of Chinese imports, including more than two-thirds of China-made shoes. Beijing retaliated with duties of between 5% and 10% on a variety of American goods. The next part of the fourth tranche is planned to go into effect Dec. 15, affecting about $160 billion in imports, including the remaining share of footwear.
Last week, China announced that it would grant exemptions for 16 types of U.S. products, including animal feed and cancer drugs. Trump said that as a “measure of goodwill,” the administration would delay a tariff hike of 25% to 30% on $250 billion worth of goods (representing the first three tranches) to Oct. 15 from Oct. 1.
While many industry groups support tighter trade policies vis-à-vis China, they’ve been overwhelmingly critical of Trump’s use of tariffs to drive these negotiations and lamented the uncertainty caused by the back-and-forth talks with Beijing. American Apparel and Footwear Association president and CEO Rick Helfenbein has called Trump’s approach “a 1930s trade strategy that will be a disaster for American consumers, American businesses and the American economy.”
Since 70% of America’s shoes are imported from China, footwear trade groups, brands and retailers — including Nike, Crocs, Marc Fisher and DSW — have been outspoken opponents of the trade war, calling them in an August open letter “hidden taxes paid by American individuals and families.”
“It is clear that many of the Administration’s tariff actions over the past two years have had significant collateral effects on domestic prices and have led to extensive retaliation against our exports,” wrote the newly formed Tariff Reform Coalition this week. “We do not believe Congress was sufficiently apprised of these effects. Potential further harm from measures currently under consideration by the administration and the resulting retaliation by trading partners could have even more sweeping effects throughout the economy.”