OPERATIONS

Retailers welcome tariff delay but say threat remains

BY Marianne Wilson

Consumers — and retailers — got some good news with regards to holiday shopping.

The Trump administration on Tuesday narrowed the number of Chinese imports it plans to impose new tariffs on as of Sept. 1, delaying until December 15 the 10% tariffs on such popular consumer goods as cellphones, laptops, video game consoles, some toys, computer monitors, shoes and clothing as it looks to blunt their impact on holiday shopping. Some items are being removed from the tariff list altogether “based on health, safety, national security and other factors.” These include car seats, shipping containers, cranes, certain fish and Bibles and other religious literature.

“We’re doing this for the Christmas season,” the president told reporters. “Just in case some of the tariffs would have an impact on U.S. customers.”

The National Retail Federation said it was pleased the administration is delaying some tariffs ahead of the holiday season and acknowledging the impact on American consumers. But it added that uncertainly remained.

“Still, uncertainty for U.S. businesses continues, and tariffs taking effect September 1 will result in higher costs for American families and slow the U.S. economy,” said David French, NRF’s senior VP for government relations. “During this delay period, we urge the administration to develop an effective strategy to address China’s unfair trade practices by working with our allies instead of using unilateral tariffs that cost American jobs and hurt consumers.”

Hun Quach, VP of international trade for the Retail Industry Leaders Association, sounded a similar note.

“Removing some products from the list and delaying additional 10 percent tariffs on other products, such as toys, consumer electronics, apparel and footwear, until Dec. 15 is welcomed news as it will mitigate some pain for consumers through the holiday season,” said Quach. “However, the decision to implement the 10% tariff on nearly all remaining goods from China does not eliminate the threat and uncertainty the trade war has created for the American economy.”

Others agreed that the decision to delay tariffs does not takeaway uncertainly.

“Given how fluid U.S. trade negotiations have been, the pivot in tariff plans announced today is hardly surprising,” said Josh Homes, Fitch Solutions Macro Research’s Senior Consumer Analyst Josh Holmes. “While it signals some financial relief for retailers and other consumer-facing industries, holding tariffs off until year-end does little to remove the uncertainty.”

Both the NRF and RILA urged the Administration to use the delay to reach a trade resolution with China before the Dec. 15 deadline.

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