Corporate America is taking the gloves off in its campaign to end President Trump’s trade war.
A coalition of more than 200 trade associations spanning agriculture, manufacturing, retail, technology, oil and even liquor will begin a new two-pronged attack next week to try to end the policies they see as damaging. The campaign, called Tariffs Hurt the Heartland, will involve blanketing Capitol Hill with farmers and other business owners, plus debuting an ad aimed at parents that essentially says the trade war might be endangering babies.
The escalation comes at a crucial time: The president and Chinese officials are meeting this week with just a month to go before US tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese imports are slated to more than double to 25 per cent. It also marks a shift in strategy. After a year of struggling to directly sway Trump and his inner circle, including running ads on Fox News — his favourite cable channel — corporate lobbyists are ratcheting up pressure outside the White House.
“People have to think through different strategies because the normal operating procedure doesn’t work,” said Matt Priest, chief executive officer of the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America, which is part of the wider coalition. “Some of that strategy is paying off, but the response isn’t the response we would’ve liked.”
Next week, about 100 executives and business owners from companies big and small will visit Washington to lobby Congress, especially the large freshmen class — mostly Democrats — that may still be formulating their stances on trade. Support is also needed for a bipartisan bill intended to rein in the president’s trade authority.
The group descending on Washington includes people like Brent Bible, who runs a 5,000-acre corn and soybean farm in Romney, Indiana. Soybeans were hit by retaliatory Chinese tariffs last year, pushing down prices to a point where farmers no longer make money. His farm also took a hit when US levies on steel and aluminum made equipment pricier.
“Just get it fixed,” said Bible, who holds an economics degree. If this dispute goes on much longer, he said he worries about a “snowball effect” that could make soybeans almost worthless.