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American businesses urge President Trump not to impose new tariffs on China

Workers load steel in a workshop in Zouping, in China's eastern Shandong province on March 10. Some U.S. businesses asked the Trump administration not to add additional tariffs on China in addition to the steel and aluminum tariffs already in place. (AFP/Getty Images)

Twenty-four of the nation’s largest retailers signed a letter asking the White House not to impose an estimated $60 billion in extra tariffs on China. The Trump administration is reportedly planning on imposing tariffs on a range of goods imported from China in retaliation for "unfair" trade practices. These would be in addition to the global tariffs on aluminum and steel imports that President Donald Trump signed on March 8.

What did the letter say?

The letter read, in part:

[W]e are concerned about the negative impact as you consider remedial actions under Section 301 of the Trade Act could have on America’s working families. Investigating technology and intellectual property policies and practices is critically important to our innovative economy. Yet were this investigation to result in a broadly applied tariff remedy on imports from China, it would hurt American households with higher prices and exacerbate a U.S. tariff system that is already stacked against working families.

The letter also argued that tariffs would disproportionately hurt the least fortunate Americans.

In the U.S., those who can afford less pay more because the U.S. levies the highest tariffs on basic consumer goods. … Applying any additional broad-based tariff as part of a Section 301 action would worsen this inequity and punish American working families with higher prices on household basics like clothing, shoes, electronics, and home goods.

Section 301 (part of the Trade Act of 1974) gives Trump broad powers to impose tariffs on China without congressional approval if the U.S. trade representative determines that a country is exhibiting “unfair trade practices.”

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro told CNBC that U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer was coming up with a plan for how to respond to what he called “China’s theft and forced transfer of our intellectual property."

Is there any criticism?

The Trump administration’s earlier tariffs have been widely criticized by both Republicans and Democrats. More than 100 Republican members of Congress signed a letter to protest the tariffs on steel and aluminum, arguing that “the idea of broad tariffs” would have “unintended negative consequences to the U.S. economy and its workers.”

However, Republicans have been quicker to praise these retaliatory tariffs.

“Obviously there’s a huge difference,” Rep. Tom Rice (R-S.C.) said. “I think that the retaliatory tariffs are there for a reason, to deal with bad actors. I don’t think anybody argues that China hasn’t taken advantage of us, and that it hasn’t hurt the American middle class."

The letter was signed by Abercrombie & Fitch Co., American Eagle Outfitters, Inc., AutoZone, Best Buy, Big Lots Inc., Chico’s FAS, Inc, Columbia Sportswear Co., Costco, Dollar Tree Inc., Gap Inc., Havertys Furniture Co., JCPenney, JOANN Stores LLC, Kohl’s Department Stores, Inc., Ikea North America Services LLC, Levi Strauss & Co., Oxford Industries, Inc., Qurate Retail Group, Sears Holdings Corp., Target, The Michaels Companies Inc., VF Corporation, Walmart, and Wolverine Worldwide.

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