President Donald Trump may not have a deadline for a trade deal that averts fresh duties on Chinese products coming into the U.S., but for people like Karen Giberson, the sooner, the better.
Trump, when asked last week if he had a deadline for China to make progress on a trade deal before facing further tariffs, said he had none. “My deadline is what’s up here,” he said, gesturing at his head. “Nobody can quite figure it out.”
“The deadline’s in your head, but in my head, I’m thinking of my companies,” Giberson, the president and chief executive of the Accessories Council, told MarketWatch on Monday as the U.S. Trade Representative opened seven days of hearings to solicit public comment on proposed 25% levies on $300 billion in Chinese goods that haven’t been subject to tariffs.
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“They’re panicked” at the prospect of more tariffs, said Giberson of the companies her group represents. Members include Tory Burch, known for its handbags and other accessories, and watchmaker Timex.
Giberson was one of more than 300 officials from American manufacturers, retailers or trade groups who were scheduled to appear before a panel of government officials held at the U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington over the course of the hearings.
Marc Schneider, the chief executive of Kenneth Cole Productions, told the panel that extra tariffs on shoes like those made by his company “will certainly threaten jobs and capital investment in our industry,” and that it isn’t feasible for production to be brought back to the U.S.
Asked by MarketWatch if he was hopeful the tariffs could be avoided, Schneider replied, “Somebody told me hope is not a great strategy. So I’m trying to have a logical discussion.”
“I can’t see another side to this,” he said, arguing against the proposed tariffs.
Trump has frequently said it is China that pays tariffs. But U.S. businesses say the costs are passed on to them, and economists say tariffs’ costs can be passed on to consumers.
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Though most of the participants in Monday’s hearing were anti-tariff, not all were.
Daniel Nation, director of government relations for spun-yarn manufacturer Parkdale, said he was testifying Monday in support of tariffs on finished apparel and home textiles.
Tariffs, he said, would help foster investment in the U.S. and create more American jobs. “I applaud the administration for doing this,” said Nation, whose North Carolina-based company Vice President Mike Pence toured in late May. “Somebody’s got to stand up.” Nation said he’d watched the U.S. textile industry being “dismantled” ever since China joined the World Trade Organization.
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Monday’s hearing came as Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross downplayed the prospects of a major U.S.-China trade deal if Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping meet at the G-20 summit in Japan later this month. Trump has said he plans to meet Xi but last week said it didn’t matter if they met at the G-20.
“I think the most that will come out of the G-20 might be an agreement to actively resume talks,” Ross said in a phone interview Sunday with The Wall Street Journal.