Global Trade Deep Dive
Floating Share Widget
Read recent press releases from NRF:
- Retailers say new tariffs against China will ‘boomerang back to harm U.S. families and workers’
- Retailers applaud senate action on tariffs
- Consumers are ‘one step closer to feeling the full effects of a trade war’
- Retailers call latest tariff threat ‘reckless escalation’ and call for Congress to intervene
- Retailers say tariffs against China will undermine recent economic progress
- Retailers welcome congressional move to rein in tariffs
- Retailers respond to administration’s latest tariff announcement
- NRF tells USTR tariffs would disrupt retail supply chains, drive up prices for back-to-school and holiday merchandise
- Ben Stein recreates tariff lesson from ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ in NRF parody ad campaign
- Businesses from retail to farms tell USTR proposed tariffs would harm U.S. economy
- Study shows tariffs against China would destroy thousands of American jobs
- Retailers to White House: ‘Stop playing chicken with the economy’
- Retailers respond to tariff list
- Retailers say tariffs will ‘punish ordinary Americans for China’s violations’
- Retailers to White House: ‘Do right by American families’ on trade
The tariff developments began in August 2017, when the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative announced an investigation under Section 301 of the U.S. Trade Act of 1974 looking at China’s unfair trade practices regarding forced technology transfers, intellectual property rights enforcement and other actions. USTR held a public hearing in October, which led to the release of a Section 301 report and the announcement by Trump this March that he would seek a 25 percent tariff on $50 billion worth of Chinese products, World Trade Organization action against China and investment restrictions.
In April, USTR released the list of potential Chinese products that could be subject to the tariffs. China responded by saying it would impose an equal amount of tariffs on U.S. products, prompting the White House to say it would consider tariffs on an additional $100 billion worth of Chinese products.
USTR then conducted a review of the proposed list of products in May, and NRF testified in opposition to the tariffs at a USTR hearing. The final list – including tariffs on $34 billion worth of goods that took effect July 6 and tariffs on $16 billion in goods still subject to comments and hearings – was released in June. As expected, China released its own two lists of U.S. products with the same dollar amounts and timetable. Trump then said he would impose tariffs on another $200 billion in Chinese products – double the amount threatened earlier – if China went through with its tariffs. China did so, and USTR released the new list of proposed tariffs on July 10. NRF said the new tariffs will “boomerang back” to harm U.S. families and workers.
NRF has responded to each of the White House moves, urging the administration to “change course and stop playing a game of chicken with the U.S. economy.” NRF has said tariffs would drive up the price of both imported consumer products and U.S.-made products built from imported parts, amounting to a tax on American consumers that could offset the benefits of recently passed tax reform.
The lists of products subject to tariffs have both changed and been expanded since April. But a study conducted for NRF based on the original list found that tariffs on $50 billion in imports would cause a $2.9 billion drop in U.S. gross domestic product and the loss of 134,000 U.S. jobs. Adding tariffs on an additional $100 billion in imports would bring the total to a $49.2 billion loss in GDP and 455,000 jobs lost. Four jobs would be lost for every job gained, according to the report.
NRF has voiced concerns about the tariffs with the White House, hosted coalition meetings bringing together representatives of retail and other affected industries, and coordinated comments to USTR signed by over 100 companies. NRF has also worked extensively with the news media, warning against tariffs in outlets ranging from the New York Times to the Today Show. In May, NRF aired a television commercial on Saturday Night Live and other TV programs featuring actor and economist Ben Stein recreating his role from the movie Ferris Buehler’s Day off to explain that tariffs are “B-A-D economics.”
Steel and aluminum tariffs
While the tariffs above are specific to China, Trump announced in March that he would impose tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum from a wide variety of countries under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, which allows tariffs based on national security issues. The tariffs, which were the result of a Section 232 investigation initiated last year, were announced as part of a White House “listening session” with executives from U.S. steel and aluminum makers. While some countries have been exempted, the tariffs apply to China, Canada and Mexico, along with the European Union. Both Canada and the EU have announced retaliatory tariffs.
NRF called the steel an aluminum tariffs a “self-inflicted wound on the nation’s economy” and said they would drive up prices for U.S. consumers on metal-dependent products from canned goods to automobiles. NRF has endorsed legislation that would require congressional approval of Section 232 tariffs, urging Congress to “play a leading role in mitigating escalating trade tensions with our strongest allies.”
Trump has long maintained that discouraging imports would bring back millions of manufacturing jobs even though most economists say that is unlikely. Within days of taking office, he signed an executive order withdrawing the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, and indicated that he wants to review all current free trade agreements. Trump followed by launching negotiations to modernize the landmark North American Free Trade Agreement, which has boosted trade between the United States, Canada and Mexico for a quarter-century. Talks with Canada and Mexico that began last August are continuing.
NRF is working to ensure that NAFTA modernization efforts do not harm the underlying agreement and is closely monitoring other issues. NRF agrees that a number of NAFTA’s provisions need to be updated to reflect today’s business environment, including issues such as digital trade, for example. But NRF told USTR that the priority in negotiations should be to “do no harm” to the existing pact.
NRF has said threats by the White House to withdraw from NAFTA or include a sunset provision “should be a non-starter.” Other proposals to include restrictive new rules of origin, new trade remedies or the elimination of investor protections would significantly weaken the agreement and should be rejected. In an op-ed, NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said an end to NAFTA would cost the United States jobs and harm the economy while resulting in higher prices for consumers and reduced availability of products ranging from apparel and electronics to fresh fruits and vegetables.
A study conducted for NRF and other trade associations found that withdrawing from NAFTA would cost consumers $5.3 billion in higher prices because of tariffs that would be imposed on goods from Mexico and Canada. Retailers would see a $10.5 billion hit to their bottom lines, and 128,000 retail-related jobs could be lost over three years.
NRF has helped lead lobbying visits to Capitol Hill to reinforce the message that the business community supports NAFTA modernization but that withdrawal should not be an option. NRF wants Congress to assert its oversight authority to ensure that the negotiations improve the agreement rather than weaken it.
Other trade efforts
NRF is working on Capitol Hill and with the administration to educate policymakers on the importance of international trade to the economy and to warn of the negative impact that would come with new tariffs. Anti-trade actions and proposals ignore the fact that many affected goods are no longer made in the United States. Retailers and other importers could not easily or quickly switch to domestic sources because they do not exist on the scale that would be needed. Even if there were an eventual switch to U.S. sourcing, it would take years to build up a base to support it. And new U.S. factories would likely be high-tech and highly automated, creating relatively few new jobs.
In 2017, NRF and other business groups formed the U.S. Global Value Chain Coalition to educate the public and policymakers about the U.S. jobs and economic contributions included in products manufactured elsewhere. In one example, a study conducted for the coalition found that 75 percent of the retail price of five types of apparel examined goes to U.S. contributors.
- Policy Agenda
- Action Center
- Retail's Impact
- Policy Committees
- NRF RetailPAC
- Voting Records
- State Retail Associations
- Vote Retail
- State legislative activity
Find out how trade agreements impact retailers and families in your state.