- - Thursday, July 5, 2018

America’s leading business lobbies, which represent every sector of our economy, have declared all out war against President Trump’s trade tariffs.

Manufacturers, corporations of every size and shape, retail businesses, agricultural industries, and consumer groups — 45 associations in all — have joined forces to defeat the president’s plans to impose higher trade taxes on our long-standing trading partners and most loyal allies.

The largest of these organizations, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which represents more than 3 million businesses nationwide, is launching an unprecedented campaign against the tariffs.

A brief tweet sent out in advance of its announcement framed the issue in four words: “Trade works. Tariffs don’t.”

“The administration is threatening to undermine the economic progress it worked so hard to achieve,” said Chamber President Tom Donohue. “We should seek free and fair trade, but this is just not the way to do it.”

The chamber charged that Mr. Trump is threatening a global trade war by slapping higher taxes on imported steel and aluminum, targeting Canada, China and Mexico, and the European Union.

Throughout Mr. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, he said that American trade with other countries was to blame for the decline in U.S. manufacturing jobs, when, in fact, the loss of factory jobs here at home was largely due to automation, not competition from abroad.

Mr. Trump has argued that the only way to strengthen our nation’s manufacturing base is to slap higher import taxes (tariffs) on our trading partners.

Business leaders and economists have told him that such action would only trigger a costly trade war, sending consumer prices through the roof, destroying U.S. jobs and hurting American exports around the globe.

“Tariffs are simply taxes that raise prices for everyone,” Mr. Donohue said this week. Truer words were never spoken.

Indeed, he added, Mr. Trump’s tariffs were “beginning to take a toll on American businesses, workers, farmers, and consumers as overseas markets close to American-made products and prices increase here at home.”

What the Trump administration isn’t telling voters is that half of all U.S. manufacturing jobs depend on exports, and one out of three acres of American farms grow crops for overseas markets.

The 25 percent Trump tariff on imported steel would hurt U.S. manufacturers, especially auto manufacturers. If China slaps a retaliatory tariff on soybeans, which it said it would on $34 billion in U.S. farm exports, it would wreak havoc with our agriculture industry.

The European Union has said it would target $3.2 billion in U.S. goods, including Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

Mexico plans to place 20 percent tariffs on U.S. pork products. Canada has announced tariffs on $12.6 billion in U.S. exports.

You don’t need a doctorate in business economics to figure out that such a global trade war will hurt businesses, and kill jobs, throughout our economy.

It’s important to understand that these business groups, that included Apple Inc., Google and Walmart, were not giving our trading partners a free pass, saying in a letter to Mr. Trump that they had very “serious concerns” about China’s theft of trade secrets and other unscrupulous practices.

But they said the administration “should not respond to unfair Chinese practices and policies by imposing tariffs or other measures that will harm U.S. companies, workers, farmers, ranchers, consumers, and investors.”

All of these and other fears about Mr. Trump’s trade wars are having an outsized impact on the economy.

In a manufacturing report late last month, the Institute for Supply Management said that manufacturers were “overwhelmingly” concerned about the impact of Mr. Trump’s tariffs.

A growing number of business executives expressed similar concerns.

“There’s a huge question on trade,” said Jamie Dimon, the head of the Business Roundtable and CEO of JPMorgan Chase. Mr. Trump’s tariff policies have raised “rising uncertainty, which could weigh down investment and hiring,” he told The Washington Post.

Republicans in Congress express similar reservations about the president’s trade war.

“We have talked, many of us, till we’re blue in the face on tariffs and trade in general, trying to move the White House away from its protectionist stance,” says Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona.

But for the time being, Mr. Trump is sticking to his guns as the trade war looms ever larger on the horizon.

• Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and contributor to The Washington Times.

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