As the Trump administration readies major trade actions this month, including a potential $200 billion in new tariffs on imported Chinese goods, America’s biggest trade associations — representing a wide swath of industries — have formed what they say will be a sweeping campaign against tariffs.
Americans for Free Trade, a group of more than 80 associations, said it represents thousands of businesses and workers. It’s joining with the already-formed Farmers for Free Trade in a campaign the groups are calling “Tariffs Hurt the Heartland.” They plan events in Chicago, Nashville, Pennsylvania and Ohio starting next week, according to a statement posted on a new website.
“Every sector of the U.S. economy stands to lose in a trade war,” Matthew Shay, who heads the National Retail Federation, said in the statement. “The stakes couldn’t be higher for American families, businesses, farmers and workers threatened by job losses and higher prices as a result of tit-for-tat tariffs.”
The coalition posted a searchable map linking users to stories from farmers and businesses saying they’re harmed by tariffs. The move comes just as Bloomberg reports the White House is proposing a new round of trade talks with China, after the previous four attempts faltered.
President Donald Trump’s push to impose tariffs on China and other countries is aimed at deterring what he views as unfair trade practices and, equally important, to encourage American consumers and businesses to buy and sell more goods made at home. The White House is pushing tariffs as a powerful negotiating tool for winning what it says are better trade deals for all Americans.
But most economists say trade deficits aren’t necessarily bad or even a helpful measure for gauging a nation’s economic health. That’s because a trade gap can reflect a strong economy and currency, which in turn make imports less expensive. That’s case now in the U.S., and that combination can bolster both the U.S. and global economy.
The new group plans a slew of actions besides the events, including a TV, radio and online ad campaign, a “war room” that it says will fact-check tariff announcements, op-eds, blogs and statements “from Americans bearing the brunt” of tariffs, a digital media campaign and direct outreach to Congress.
The coalition is forming less than two months before voters head to the polls for midterm Congressional elections. Wall Street is taking into account Mr. Trump’s trade policies and whether a potential win for the Democrats in the House of Representatives might put a check on the administration’s tariff policies.
“While we agree that there are issues that need to be addressed with key trading partners, tariffs are the wrong approach to bring about meaningful change,” the group said in a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi dated Wednesday. “Every day, companies large and small are sharing their stories of the harm the tariffs and ensuing retaliation are causing across all sectors of the American economy.”