US lawmakers concern over consumer technology prices

Washington: Voicing concerns over the impact of proposed tariffs on consumer electronic prices paid by US consumers, a bipartisan group of 34 lawmakers told the Trump Administration that the most effective approach was for the international community, and not the United States alone, to stand up to China's unfair trade practices.

"We believe you have many tools at your disposal to achieve our shared objections. In particular, we urge you to work as closely as possible with our allies who share our concerns about China's unfair trade practices, and have begun to address these practices more directly thanks to US leadership," the lawmakers said yesterday.

In a letter to US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, the Congressmen said the US should avoid creating disincentives for its allies to join it in taking strong action, which higher tariffs could do.

"The most effective approach is for the international, not the United States alone, to stand up to China's unfair trade practices," they concluded.

According to a recent study done for the Consumer Technology Association and the National Retail Federation, increasing current US tariffs on televisions by 25 per cent would cost US consumers USD 711 million in the first year alone; for ink and cartridges, US consumers would pay an additional USD 529 million; and costs would also significantly increase for US consumers of computer monitors (by USD 172 million) and batteries (by USD 24 million), they added.

"It has been widely reported that actual or potential tariffs are already causing pain for US agricultural exports, including pork, soybeans, corn and beef," the lawmakers said.

"Furthermore, we are equally worried that the imposition of these tariffs on everyday consumer products would amount to a de facto tax increase that disproportionately affects the middle class and low-income American consumers," they wrote.

Appreciating the Trump administration's commitment to address unfair trade practices by China, the lawmakers urged Lighthizer to do everything possible to address these problems without closing markets, imposing tariffs, or enacting other government regulations that, might harm large numbers of US workers, consumers, businesses, farmers, and ranchers.

"It is clear that China's policies regarding intellectual property and forced technology transfers have been a source of grave concern for many years, and it is time for a strong response from the United States," they said.

The challenge, of course, is how best to engage with China in order to secure the desired changes in the policies, the lawmakers added.

"We do not believe that the current cycle of threatened tariffs between the United States and China will secure optimal results, and are concerned that there will be significant unintended adverse consequences to the United States.

Indeed, even the mere threat of tariffs can diminish US economic growth, competitiveness, and exports," the Congressmen wrote.

Senator Heidi Heitkamp said the administration's move to of imposing USD 50 billion in tariffs against Chinese goods, was escalating into a trade war that would hurt farmers and ranchers.

A better way to deal with China would be to focus on trade enforcement to create a level playing field for American farmers, ranchers, and manufacturers.

"Instead, the administration is asking US agriculture producers to take a hit when they can least afford it," Heitkamp said.


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