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Businesses Race to Washington to Sway Trump on China Tariffs

May 16,2018 00:24

WASHINGTON — Mary Buchzeiger describes herself as a proud Republican who was drawn to President Trump's business-friendly philosophy. But the president's plan to impose sweeping tariffs on $50 billion of products from China now threatens to cripple ...

Those testifying on Tuesday morning included executives from the solar cell and module manufacturer SolarWorld Americas, the wind turbine maker American Superconductor Corporation and the United States Steel Corporation, all companies that say they have had intellectual property stolen by Chinese actors and have assisted in the Trump administration’s investigation into unfair Chinese trade practices. In March, the United States trade representative determined that the Chinese had violated American intellectual property, a finding that gave Mr. Trump the authority to impose tariffs and other restrictions.
Many business owners pleaded with the administration to be even tougher on China and help protect their businesses against foreign competition. Cory Watkins, the president of Schumacher Electric, which manufactures car battery chargers and jump starters primarily in North America, asked the administration to include more of the company’s finished products in the tariff list.
Mr. Watkins said the company had learned in the last few weeks that one of its biggest customers had signed a contract with a Chinese manufacturer that Schumacher Electric has sued for stealing its intellectual property. Without the tariff protections, Mr. Watkins said, “we still run the risk of the very problem we’re facing today, which is Chinese companies taking our intellectual property, copying it and selling it to our own customers.”
Companies caught in the tariffs cross-fire, like the electronics retailer Best Buy and the TV streaming device maker Roku, protested that they would face higher prices to import products from China and that those costs would ultimately be passed on to American consumers. Michelle Erickson Jones, a Montana farmer and a member of the trade lobbying group Farmers for Free Trade, complained that trade tensions were already costing American farmers, who were facing canceled orders of soybeans and wine and seeing perishable shipments held up in Chinese ports.
Representatives from Chinese business groups argued that the proposed tariffs were arbitrary, were inconsistent with World Trade Organization rules and put millions of American jobs tied to trade with China at risk. “Should the U.S. implement the proposed action, it will lead to nothing but confrontation between the two countries,” said Jian Tan, a representative of the China Chamber of International Commerce.
The Trump administration has said it devised its tariff list to remove goods that were vital to American consumers. But in the process, many economists say, the administration ended up targeting the imported parts and machinery that businesses depend on to run American-based operations.
Ms. Buchzeiger’s company, Lucerne International, used to source more products from within the United States. But when the financial crisis hit, her American suppliers started to fold, and the company had to look abroad. The company supplies 28 parts for the Jeep Wrangler, which Lucerne sources from seven manufacturing facilities in China, she said.

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