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Global trade

Global Trade

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NRF’s “Tariffs Are B-A-D Economics” campaign features economist Ben Stein from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” Learn why trade wars dont work.

Why trade matters to retail

NRF believes the United States needs a 21st century trade policy that recognizes imports lower the cost of living for all Americans and support millions of U.S. jobs in fields such as research, design, ecommerce, distribution, transportation, merchandising and sales.

  • Retailers rely heavily on imported merchandise to provide American families products they need at prices they can afford.
  • From clothing to electronics, many consumer products are no longer mass-produced in the U.S., leaving foreign manufacturers as the only sources.
  • It would take years to re-establish U.S. manufacturing of these products; even if it could be done, modern factories would be highly automated and provide relatively few jobs.

Trade barriers such as tariffs, which drive up the price of imports through a hidden tax, or “quotas,” which limit availability of consumer goods by restricting the number of items imported, should be eliminated.

Dive deeper into international trade, or see our press releases and blog posts about how trade enriches retail.

China tariffs

NRF opposes tariffs imposed by either side. A study conducted for NRF shows the proposed tariffs could cause a $49.2 billion loss in U.S. gross domestic product and the loss of 455,000 U.S. jobs. Four jobs would be lost for every job gained.

China is perhaps retailers’ most important source of high-quality and affordable consumer products and an important and growing market for U.S. exporters, particularly farmers.

President Trump has proposed new tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese imports because of China’s unfair trade practices including violation of intellectual property rights and forced technology transfers.

China has threatened to retaliate with tariffs of its own on an equal amount of U.S. goods, and Trump is considering additional tariffs on another $100 billion in products from China.

NRF argues that a trade war would punish U.S. consumers more than it would punish China while doing little to create U.S. jobs, because tariffs are essentially a tax that U.S. businesses and consumers would pay.

Read the full study conducted for NRF and the Consumer Technology Association.

Learn more about the China tariffs issue or browse our related press releases.


In 2017, President Trump ordered NAFTA to be renegotiated and has threatened to withdraw from the agreement.

NRF agrees that NAFTA should be updated to address issues such as digital trade that did not exist when the agreement was first established. But NRF strongly opposes withdrawal and believes that any updates should truly modernize NAFTA and do no harm to the underlying agreement. 

Since it took effect in 1994, the North American Free Trade Agreement has:

  • Eliminated billions of dollars of tariffs on both imports and exports shipped between the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
  • Supported millions of U.S. jobs.
  • Lowered prices on a wide variety of consumer goods.
  • Made seasonal food products more widely available and affordable.
  • Allowed parts for U.S.-made products to be imported tariff-free from either of the other two partner countries, benefiting manufacturers and retailers.
  • Allowed complex products to be moved back and forth across borders during the manufacturing process.

For more about NAFTA, read our deep dive or browse our related press releases.

Trade Matters
Trade mattters

Find out how trade agreements impact retailers and families in your state.