Washington is planning another tidal wave of tariffs on Chinese imports that represent a worst-case scenario for markets and major industries on both sides of the Pacific.
And on Monday, seven days of public hearings are due to begin as major businesses issue their loudest warnings yet about layoffs, lost business and America’s waning industrial predominance.
Some industries, such as steel and aluminum producers, have benefitted from President Donald Trump’s trade policies and strongly support tariffs.
But the lion’s share so far are pleading with his administration to spare the imports they depend on — if not to step back from the brink of an unprecedented all-out trade conflict that economists say would prove dire for global growth.
Should they take effect, the newest $300 billion round of tariffs — which follow last month’s sudden crackup in trade negotiations with Beijing — would mean stinging duties cover just about all of the more than half trillion dollars in goods that Americans buy from China every year.
Major trade bodies share Trump’s principle grievances with Beijing, accusing it of rampant industrial espionage and massive state intervention in markets.
But in a letter to Trump on Thursday, hundreds of US companies large and small, including retail giants Target and Walmart, warned Trump the new tariff round could cost two million jobs and cut US GDP growth by a full percentage point.
So far, Trump has imposed tariffs on more than $250 billion in Chinese goods but this has spared most consumer items from major price increases.
Still, William Reinsch, a trade policy expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told AFP the new tariffs were likely to pinch ordinary consumers far more.
“Unlike the previous times, I think there’ll be a sharp negative reaction from the public,” he said.
“If these things go into effect in July, what you’re going to see is fairly immediate price increases on a whole bunch of things right at the point where people are gearing up to shop for the fall season, for winter clothes and for Christmas.”
Trump has pinned hopes for resolving the impasse on a planned meeting with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping later this month at the Group of 20 summit in Japan.
– America makes no tea –
Should Xi fail to attend, Trump told CNBC this week, he could impose the new tariffs “immediately” — although the period for public comment on the tariffs extends beyond the conclusion of the summit.
At the hearings, more than 300 people are scheduled to testify. And the US Trade Representative’s office has collected more than 1,200 written comments and requests to appear in person.
“We are not able to quickly or simply shift all manufacturing to other sourcing countries, resulting in price increases for the average US consumer,” wrote Patrice Louvet, CEO of Ralph Lauren Corporation. “This ultimately undermines American competitiveness.”
Oilfield services giant Halliburton warned of job cuts and decreased US oil-and-gas exploration if duties rise to 25 percent on barite, a key mineral used in drilling fluids for which China has the world’s largest reserves.
Smaller businesses also came forward.
“We would like it to be known that the retail segment of the economy is preparing for a big hit and pray that the present administration consults God,” said an anonymous retailer in western Kentucky that imports outdoor seating and artificial Christmas trees, among other items, but supported Trump’s trade policies overall.
Lu Yu, vice president of the China Chamber of Commerce of Food Stuffs, Native Produce and Animal Byproducts, said putting tariffs on Chinese tea made no sense.
“The USA is not a tea producing country,” she wrote.
“The tea industry of the USA does not need to be protected by tariffs and there is not any tea grower or group that would be protected.”
Trump’s departing chief economist Kevin Hassett told CNBC on Friday the possible Trump-Xi meeting at the G20 summit could yield rapid improvements.
“I think the hope is that at the G20 meeting the two presidents can get together to start to get closer to where we were a few months ago where we really, really close to having a deal,” he said.
But Trump’s commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, told the Wall Street Journal on Sunday he thinks “the most that will come out of the G-20 might be an agreement to actively resume talks.”
“At the presidential level they’re not going to talk about the details of how do you enforce a trade agreement,” Ross said.
And the specter of such a massive hit to consumers’ wallets holds political peril for Trump.
Polling last month by Monmouth and Quinnipiac universities showed majorities disapproved of Trump’s trade policies and expected his tariffs to raise prices.
Reinsch of CSIS said Trump was left with a dilemma, as Beijing was not likely to meet his toughest demands.
“The president has a choice: accept a weaker agreement or continue the war,” he said, adding that either outcome would leave him vulnerable to attacks from Democrats.
“I don’t see a clean way out of this.”
Brian Williams compares Corey Lewandowski’s opening statement to the North Korean news lady
MSNBC host Brian Williams on Tuesday noted the similarities between former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and North Korean news anchor Ri Chun Hee.
"Corey Lewandowski, the former Trump campaign manager who is now considering a Senate run in New Hampshire, testified before the House Judiciary Committee today," Williams reported. "It is likely his North Korean anchorwoman-quality opening remarks were meant were one viewer (Donald Trump)."
Ri, who has earned the nickname "Pink Lady," is known for her enthusiastic reading of government-approved news.
Watch the video below from MSNBC.
‘Train-wreck of a witness’: Analysts nail ‘obstructive’ Corey Lewandowski for proving the Democrats’ case
Political commentator Catherine Rampell disagreed with New York Times columnist Frank Bruni that the Democrats faltered during the hearing with Corey Lewandowski Tuesday. Former state and federal prosecutor Elie Honig called Lewandowski a "train-wreck of a witness."
She explained that Democrats had an extremely low bar: they had to prove Trump obstructed justice and that Corey Lewandowski gave one of the examples of such obstructions. In that sense, Rampell said they accomplished their goals.
"I don’t think this was a great day for Corey Lewandowski," she began. "This is a guy who went on TV and announced to the world -- apparently at the same time he is also trying to fundraise for Senate -- that he lies most of the time. Except when he's under oath."
WATCH: Ana Navarro keeps shouting down Trump booster — even as CNN host cuts to commercial
President Donald Trump cheered on his top Hispanic advisor Steve Cortes, who appeared before a New Mexico audience. Trump asked Cortes which he loved more, Hispanics or America, which prompted CNN's Ana Navarro to blast the president for racism. Meanwhile, Trump's latest CNN shill cried "political correctness."
"Look, I suspect he didn't want to offend Steve Cortes and I suspect Steve Cortes was not offended," Navarro said. "But really what a stupid thing to say. Right? To somehow ask the question about whether you love the country more than you love Hispanics -- they are one and the same."