Manufacturers rattled by tariffs, looming trade war

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- As the Trump administration touts its new trade deal with South Korea, the very groups that are supposed to benefit from the president’s trade skirmishes are rattled. Our Washington Correspondent Alana Austin has more on the fears of job losses.

This week, President Donald Trump sealed tweaks to a trade deal with South Korea, which included protections for the U.S. auto industry. But the trade fight continues with China, and companies and consumers still face tariffs on billions of dollars of goods.

“It hits these companies at so many different levels," said Dennis Slater, President of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers.

Slater's trade group represents about 1,000 companies in North American that make parts for various industries. He says while many of their members have seen big economic gains from tax cuts and regulatory reform, Slater says taxes on imported goods could wipe out that progress.

“In the end, the American employee suffers that American worker in these factories when sales go down, they’re the ones that lose their jobs," said Slater.

He says trade war price hikes on steel and aluminum squeeze profits for manufacturers, cost customers more, and jeopardize thousands of manufacturing workers.

"The farmer and the contractor who use these machines, they think, 'it’s more expensive now, maybe we won’t buy a machine this year'. So you really get hurt on both exports and you also get hurt really in domestic markets," explained Slater.

Peter Navarro, White House trade adviser, says the President's strategy focuses on long-term success: “Make no mistake about it, China is a predator.”

Navarro says countries like China have gotten away with stealing America’s intellectual property, hurting U.S. innovation. He says Trump looked to hit back at its steel and aluminum industry in an effort to strong-arm the country into playing by international trade rules. He concedes some may see short term pain – but rural manufacturing is bouncing back.

“This is a historic tipping point in American history where we finally have a President who will stand up to China, and I think the American people will stand behind him through that," said Navarro.

Many members of Congress - across party lines - have criticized the President’s trade policies, but so far they haven’t opted to override him in any significant way.

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