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The Journal Gazette

  • Associated Press Soybeans are among the American products China has threatened to place tariffs on if the U.S. places tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese imports. The two nations are currently discussing the issue in Washington.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018 1:00 am

US firms seek tariff relief

Companies hoping to be spared as talks with China take place

PAUL WISEMAN | Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Corporate America is seeking relief from President Donald Trump's threatened tariffs on at least $50 billion in Chinese goods as negotiators seek to prevent a trade war between the world's two biggest economies.

Best Buy wants televisions to be spared from the tariffs. Sanden International of Wylie, Texas, warns it will have to lay off 39 of its 431 workers if 25 percent tariffs take effect on the components it uses to make car air-conditioning compressors. SABIC, a petrochemical manufacturer, wants some building materials struck from the tariff list.

As the U.S. government began three days of hearings on the tariffs Tuesday, Chinese Vice Premier Liu He traveled to Washington to seek a resolution to the trade dispute. A similar high-level U.S. delegation made a trip to Beijing this month and returned empty-handed.

Trump had raised hopes for the latest talks by striking a surprisingly conciliatory tone toward China, which he has long accused of predatory business practices that robbed American jobs and swelled Washington's trade deficit with Beijing. Trump offered a lifeline to ZTE, a Chinese telecom company that is fighting for survival after being hit with sanctions this month by the U.S. Commerce Department.

Trump tweeted Sunday that he was working with President Xi Jinping to put ZTE “back in business, fast” and save tens of thousands of Chinese jobs – a stance that drew an immediate outcry from many Republicans and Democrats.

Trump campaigned for the presidency on a vow to strike a much tougher trade stance than his recent predecessors, who, he argued, had agreed to deals that gave an unfair advantage to America's competitors. The president has pointed to the U.S. trade deficit ($566 billion last year) as a sign of economic weakness caused by disastrous agreements and abusive behavior by China and other countries.

He has proposed tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese imports to punish Beijing for forcing American companies to hand over technology in exchange for access to China's vast market. China fired back by targeting $50 billion in American products, including soybeans and small aircraft, for potential retaliatory tariffs. Trump then ordered the U.S. trade representative to look for an additional $100 billion in Chinese goods to tax.