Business groups told the House Ways and Means Committee on April 12 that proposed tariffs by the U.S. and China would cost U.S. producers billions of dollars, while one manufacturing group said tariffs on Chinese imports would help level the playing field for U.S. businesses.
During March and April, the U.S. and China have threatened to enact or have enacted tit-for-tat tariffs, targeting billions of dollars worth of products, sparking an outcry from several lawmakers and business leaders.
Officials told lawmakers at the hearing that the tariffs could adversely impact everything from soybean production to cherries and automobile parts.
Jon Heisdorffer, the president of the American Soybean Association, said in his testimony before the committee that his industry, which was targeted by Chinese tariffs, is already bracing for impact.
Should a proposed 25% tariff on U.S. exports of soybeans be approved by China, total U.S. exports of the crop could drop by 37%, and U.S. soybean production could fall by 15%, Heisdorffer said.
John Wolfe, CEO of the NW Seaport Alliance that represents the ports of Seattle and Tacoma as well as the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, said about $8 billion in two-way trade will face increased costs, including cherries. Some $127 million worth of the fruit was shipped through those ports to China last year, he noted.
"If the Chinese market is closed to exports, they’re going to have a very tough time finding alternative markets," Newport told the committee.
The concern over the tariffs has also been raised by lawmakers, some of whom are in Trump's own party.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, who has solidly been a pro-trade advocate in Congress, said that any action against China "must avoid consequences that hurt Americans."
"We know that tariffs are also taxes and will ultimately be passed on to the consumer," Brady said.
While the tariffs have been met by mounting opposition across many industry groups, not all groups are opposed.
Scott Paul, the president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, called the threat of tariffs a "necessary step" to achieve progress in reducing market-distorting behavior. Withdrawing the threat of tariffs would be tantamount to waving the white flag, signaling to China that there would be no consequences to what he called its "predatory" trade behaviors, Paul said.
"We would be abandoning the best leverage we've seen in years," he added.
The scope of the tariffs is broad.
President Donald Trump first stepped up pressure on China when he imposed a 25% tariff on global steel imports and a 10% tariff on aluminum imports following a Section 232 investigation, which took effect March 23. While some countries, such as Canada and Mexico, were given temporary exemptions, China received no exemption.
China, in response to the steel and aluminum tariffs, on April 2 implemented tariffs of 15% on 120 U.S. products, including certain fruits as well as a 25% tariff on U.S. pork.
The Trump administration then announced that it would impose an additional 25% tariff on $50 billion in Chinese imports, including televisions, motor vehicles and other technology products, stemming from a separate Section 301 investigation into China's forced technology transfer.
In response, China said it would impose a reciprocal set of 25% in additional tariffs on 106 U.S. imports, valued at $50 billion.
Following China's threat, Trump on April 5 instructed the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to consider additional tariffs on $100 billion of Chinese imports, though the office has not yet specified which products could be targeted.
The Trump administration has said the tariffs, particularly those to be imposed on Chinese products, are a necessary measure to reduce the United States' $375.2 billion trade deficit with China by $100 billion.
Ahead of the hearing, more than 100 business, technology and farm groups sent a letter to the committee, saying the tariffs "create unpredictability across the business and farm community here in the United States, depress commodity prices, and have already harmed U.S. companies, farmers, consumers and markets."
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said he is "cautiously hopeful" that a deal between the two countries can be reached before U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports are implemented.