Illinois Companies To Trump Administration: Don’t Escalate Trade War | WBEZ
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Illinois Companies To Trump Administration: Don’t Escalate Trade War

Illinois companies and trade associations are among hundreds nationwide heading to Washington D.C. this week to convince the Trump Administration to hold off on a threat to increase tariffs on Chinese products.

Several CEOs and other business leaders from the state are expected to address representatives from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative Wednesday. The hearings are being held in response to a Trump Administration proposal to impose a 25% increase on an additional $300 billion in Chinese goods. That’s in addition to current tariffs on $250 billion in goods from China already in place.

Companies and trade groups in Illinois warn that local consumers will shoulder the brunt of an escalation in the ongoing trade war. They argue that Illinoisians could see price hikes for a range of products, from toilet seats to bowling balls.

“We can’t absorb 25% additional costs,” said Brad Handelman, president of Strikeforce Bowling, which employs about 50 people in west suburban Broadview. “We’re going to pass it on [to consumers], and we’re going to eat some of it, and it’s going to affect this company and the families here.”

The Trump administration has previously tried to shield consumers from the effects of tariffs on Chinese goods, but the latest proposals will apply tariffs to effectively all remaining products imported from China, according to Alex Hitch with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

“When businesses have to import from China, they’re the ones baring that additional cost, so they’ll have to pass that on to the consumer,” Hitch said.

Among the Illinois-based companies and trade groups scheduled to testify Wednesday is the National Marine Manufacturers Association, which represents Chicago-based Brunswick. Brunswick is the nation’s largest boat manufacturers, according to Nicole Vasilaros, NMMA Vice President of Government and Legal Affairs.

“On this latest list we have things like life jackets, so critical life-saving safety measures that would be another 25% tax,” Vasilaros said. The tariffs will also affect the price of wakeboards and fishing equipment, which Vasilaros said are some of the few outdoor activities that are accessible to people across income levels.

“We want to make sure they remain affordable and accessible,” she said.

China ranks first in the list of countries Illinois imports good from, according to 2018 census data. Illinois manufacturers of food equipment, health care supplies, outdoor equipment, and home decor have testified already or are expected to do so.

They’ll make their case to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative this week and next. Hundreds of others are testifying from across the country.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said the proposed tariffs are in response to China’s “ ... unfair trade practices related to technology transfer, intellectual property, and innovation.”

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