US firms warn next China tariffs to cost Americans from cradle to grave

The new US tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese imports will force Americans to pay more for items they use throughout their daily lives, from cradles to coffins. (Reuters)
Updated 20 August 2018
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US firms warn next China tariffs to cost Americans from cradle to grave

  • Six days of public hearings on the proposed duties of up to 25 percent will start on Monday in Washington
  • Most businesses argued that the tariffs will cause harm and higher costs for products ranging from Halloween costumes and Christmas lights to nuclear fuel inputs

WASHINGTON: A broad cross-section of US businesses has a message for the Trump administration: new tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese imports will force Americans to pay more for items they use throughout their daily lives, from cradles to coffins.
Six days of public hearings on the proposed duties of up to 25 percent will start on Monday in Washington as part of President Donald Trump’s and the US Trade Representative’s efforts to pressure Beijing for sweeping changes to its trade and economic policies.
Unlike previous rounds of US tariffs, which sought to shield consumers by targeting Chinese industrial machinery, electronic components and other intermediate goods, thousands of consumer products could be directly hit with tariffs by late September.
The $200 billion list targets Chinese seafood, furniture and lighting products, tires, chemicals, plastics, bicycles and car seats for babies.
“USTR’s proposed tariffs on an additional $200 billion of Chinese imports dramatically expands the harm to American consumers, workers, businesses, and the economy,” the US Chamber of Commerce said in written testimony for the hearing.
The top US business lobbying group said the Trump administration lacks a “coherent strategy” to address China’s theft of intellectual property and other harmful trade practices and called for “serious discussions” with Beijing.
Mid-level Trump administration officials and their Chinese counterparts are expected to meet later this week in Washington to discuss their trade dispute. But it is unclear whether the talks will have any effect on the implementation of US tariffs and retaliation by China.
In more than 1,400 written comments submitted to USTR that will be echoed in the hearings, most businesses argued that the tariffs will cause harm and higher costs for products ranging from Halloween costumes and Christmas lights to nuclear fuel inputs, while a small number praised them or asked that they be extended to other products.
Graco Children’s Products Inc, a unit of Newell Brands Inc., said tariffs “will have a direct negative impact on our company, American parents and most importantly the safety of American children.”
The company said higher prices may prompt more parents to buy car seats, swings and portable play yards on the second-hand market.
“The proposed tariffs may force parents to use unsafe sleeping environments or let children dangerously co-sleep with parents,” Graco wrote. The tariff “only causes a children safety issue; it will not convince China to change its policies.”
Evenflo Feeding said the tariffs will hit manual breast pumps “and would cause disproportionate economic harm to US interests.”
At the other end of the life cycle, Centennial Casket Corp. President Douglas Chen said his Plano, Texas-based company relies exclusively on Chinese-made caskets and the tariffs would cause “great loss” and raise costs for “grieving families purchasing caskets for their loved ones at one of the worst times of their life.”
The Internet Association, representing companies including Facebook Inc, Amazon.com Inc. and Alphabet Inc., said the tariffs “would cause disproportionate economic harm to American Internet companies. The list includes products that impact how Internet companies function.”
Westinghouse Electric Co., the leading US nuclear fuel producer, said it relies on China for zirconium and zirconium powders — key inputs for tubes used in nuclear fuel assemblies that it uses at plants in Utah, Pennsylvania and South Carolina.
There is no US source of zirconium so the tariff would “raise the cost for Westinghouse to manufacture nuclear fuel for US commercial nuclear power plants” and it ultimately “would increase the cost of electricity to a significant percentage of US electricity consumers,” the company said in a filing.
Huffy Corp, the largest US bicycle brand, with 4 million Chinese-made bikes sold annually, said a 25 percent tariff poses a “serious threat to the company.”
Huffy CEO Bill Smith wrote that the tariffs should have been put in place 20 years ago when Huffy and other US bicycle makers sought to increase the 11 percent US bicycle tariff because of aggressive Chinese imports. When this effort failed, Huffy closed three US plants in 1998 and 1999, terminating 2,000 employees and shifting to Chinese bikes.
“This proposed tariff is too little, too late,” Smith wrote, adding that now, a higher tariff would “only create problems” and cost jobs at independent US bicycle dealers.
“There is no other country in Asia or Europe that can provide the volume Huffy requires as China is the largest bicycle producer in the world,” he said.


British PM May: 'I will not break up my country for EU Brexit deal'

Updated 21 September 2018
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British PM May: 'I will not break up my country for EU Brexit deal'

  • Theresa May hits back with angry statement after EU leaders rejected May’s Chequers plan
  • Sterling plummets as both sides warn they are planning for a no-deal scenario

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Friday Brexit talks with the European Union had hit an impasse, defiantly challenging the bloc to come up with their own plans a day after the bloc’s leaders savaged her proposals.
At a summit in Austria on Thursday, EU leaders rejected May’s “Chequers” plan, saying she needed to give ground on trade and customs arrangements for the UK border with Ireland.
The British media said the response had left her proposals in tatters, and May angrily struck back in a televised address from her Downing Street office, saying neither side should expect the impossible from the other.
“Throughout this process, I have treated the EU with nothing but respect,” May said. “The UK expects the same. A good relationship at the end of this process depends on it.”
Sterling extended its losses as May spoke, falling to as low as $1.3080, about 1.4 percent on the day, putting it on course for its biggest one-day drop this year, over growing fears Britain could leave the EU without any deal.
May has said the Chequers proposals for trade with the EU, which would resolve arguments over the border of Northern Ireland with the Irish Republic, were the only way forward. EU leaders in Salzburg repeated their view that the plans would undermine their cherished single market.
After the summit, EU leaders said they would push for an agreement next month, but both sides have warned they are planning for a no-deal scenario.
“It’s not acceptable to simply reject the other side’s proposals without a detailed explanation and counter proposals,” May said. “So we now need to hear from the EU what the real issues are, what their alternative is, so that we can discuss them. Until we do, we cannot make progress.”
May, who commands a majority in parliament only with the support of a small pro-Brexit Northern Irish party, said she could not agree to any deal which treated Northern Ireland differently to the rest of the United Kingdom.
The EU insists that there can be no hard border between the British province and the Irish Republic, with Northern Ireland remaining in the bloc’s customs union or effectively establishing a border in the Irish Sea if no alternative deal is reached.
“I will not overturn the result of the referendum nor will I break up my country,” she said. “We need serious engagement on resolving the two main problems in the negotiations and we stand ready.”
However, she said no matter what happened, the rights of three million EU citizens living in the United Kingdom would be protected.
Earlier, her Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab said some EU leaders had shown unstatesmanlike behavior in Salzburg.
“We’ve already compromised hugely with the Chequers proposals,” Raab told BBC TV. “What we’re not going to do is be salami sliced throughout this negotiation in a typical style that the EU engages in without movement on the other side.”
For the British media, the message from Salzburg had been clear. “Your Brexit’s broken,” the Daily Mirror newspaper said.
Newspapers led their front pages with a Reuters picture showing May, dressed in a red jacket, standing apparently aloof and alone from a mass of suited male EU leaders.
May faces a fight with angry Conservative lawmakers at her party’s annual conference from Sept. 30.
Many have voiced opposition to her plans, which they said would bind Britain into much EU regulation in return for free trade, and some would prefer a no-deal “hard Brexit” in March, despite warnings that would ravage the British economy.
“Theresa May’s Brexit negotiating strategy has been a disaster,” opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said. “The Tories have spent more time arguing among themselves than negotiating with the EU.
“The political games from both the EU and our government need to end because no deal is not an option.”
In response to May’s statement, the Confederation of British Industry and other business bodies said they wanted to see constructive dialogue, not rhetoric.
Last week, London Mayor Sadiq Khan added his voice to those including union and business leaders who said there should be a second Brexit referendum. Scotland’s top court ruled on Friday that the European Court of Justice should consider whether Britain could unilaterally change its mind on Brexit.
“The referendum was the largest democratic exercise this country has ever undergone,” said May, who has repeatedly ruled out a second vote following the original 2016 referendum. “To deny its legitimacy or frustrate its result threatens public trust in our democracy.”