Largest US business group attacks President Trump on tariffs

US President Donald Trump's approach to tariffs has unsettled financial markets and strained relations between the White House and the chamber.
US President Donald Trump's approach to tariffs has unsettled financial markets and strained relations between the White House and the chamber.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The US Chamber of Commerce, the United States' largest business group and customarily a close ally of President Donald Trump's Republican Party, is launching a campaign on Monday (July 2) to oppose Mr Trump's trade tariff policies.

With some of America's tightest trading partners imposing retaliatory measures, Mr Trump's approach to tariffs has unsettled financial markets and strained relations between the White House and the chamber.

The new campaign, detailed first to Reuters, is an aggressive effort by the business lobbying giant.

Using a state-by-state analysis, it argues that Mr Trump is risking a global trade war that will hit the wallets of US consumers.

"The administration is threatening to undermine the economic progress it worked so hard to achieve," said the chamber's president Tom Donohue in a statement to Reuters. "We should seek free and fair trade, but this is just not the way to do it."

The chamber, which has three million members, historically has worked closely with Republican presidents and praised Mr Trump for signing business tax cuts in December.

But mounting trade tensions have opened a rift with the President.

 
 

Mr Trump has implemented billions of dollars in tariffs targeted at China, Canada, Mexico and the European Union, saying such moves are needed to offset trade imbalances.

Nations have begun retaliating. On Friday, Canada struck back at US steel and aluminium tariffs, vowing to impose punitive measures on US$12.6 billion (S$17.23 billion) worth of American goods until Washington relents.

China is expected to impose a new 25 per cent tax on soybeans in July. Mexico is adding duties to pork imports. The EU has targeted US$3.2 billion in American goods exported to the 28-member bloc, including bourbon and Harley Davidson motorcycles.

Pushing back against Mr Trump, the chamber based a state-by-state analysis on data from the US Department of Commerce and government agencies in China, the EU, Mexico, and Canada.

Mr Trump has previously been persuaded to back off trade threats with the argument that states that backed him in the 2016 presidential campaign will be hard-hit.

For example, the chamber said Texas could see US$3.9 billion worth of exports targeted by retaliatory tariffs; Tennessee, US$1.4 billion; and South Carolina, US$3 billion.