SALT LAKE CITY — In spite of President Donald Trump's assertions to the contrary, some Utah retailers say the administration's new tariff hikes will lead to higher prices on the products they sell and could put some owners of small businesses on precarious footings.
As the U.S.-China trade fight continues, U.S. stocks posted their biggest losses in months, with the Dow Jones average plummeting by more than 600 points in regular trading Monday.
In a Monday morning tweet, Trump wrote, "There is no reason for the U.S. consumer to pay the tariffs, which take effect on China today."
But the manager of Salt Lake bicycle and outdoor gear shop Wasatch Touring said prices were already moving up and he was concerned that further increases in wholesale costs of goods sourcing from China, that could not feasibly be born by the business, could have a chilling effect on sales.
"(Profit) margins in our business are already so thin," said Wasatch Touring manager Dylan Timmer. "We can absorb some of these costs but there’s a limit to how much we can really add to the prices before people just stop buying."
Timmer added that independent bike stores, like Wasatch, are already functioning in a highly competitive market where consumers have more options than ever, including from big box retailers and online sources.
While many of the bike frames sold at his store are from Taiwan, Timmer said, many bike components are sourced from China. He worries that the wholesale price increases created by Trump's decision to raise tariffs on thousands of China-manufactured items from 10 percent to 25 percent will put some bike shops, particularly independent operations, in a do-or-die situation where they'll have to seek other revenue streams besides the sales of new bikes.
"What we can do is focus on the things that we do well and how we can make money and just try to be one of the stores still standing when the dust clears," Timmer said. "We’ve got a lot of competition around here but its friendly competition and I would never want to see anyone have to close their doors over something like this."
National bicycle trade group People for Bikes tried, and failed, to secure a tariff exception when the 10 percent trade hike took effect. The group's director of state and local policy, Morgan Lommele, said they'll make the same attempt on the new 25 percent benchmark and noted they are just one of many product groups questioning the trade policy strategy.
"The bicycle industry has been as vocal as any group in questioning the policy," Lommele said. "Why are we tariffing bicycles? They’re for recreation, transportation, for having fun … things that we should really be encouraging."
She noted that the overall U.S. bicycle market is dominated by Chinese manufacturers, as much as 90 percent of the overall market, and the new tariff levels were destined to have wide-ranging negative impacts on retailers.
"The 25 percent is a quarter of the price of the bike and … it has to be passed on to the consumer via the retailer," Lommele said. "The bike industry is super competitive. Bike shops are struggling and this is just one additional really stressful factor."
China announced tariff hikes Monday on $60 billion of American goods in retaliation for President Donald Trump's latest penalties on Chinese products, the Associated Press reported Monday.
Punitive charges of 5 percent to 25 percent on thousands of American products including batteries, spinach and coffee will take effect June 1, the Finance Ministry said. That extends Chinese duty increases to $110 billion of imports from the United States.
The announcement followed an increase of U.S. duties on $200 billion of Chinese imports to 25 percent from 10 percent in the increasingly bitter dispute. American officials have accused China of backtracking on commitments they say it made in earlier negotiations, according to AP.
On Twitter, Trump warned Chinese President Xi Jinping his country "will be hurt very badly" if it doesn't agree to a trade deal.
Trump tweeted China "had a great deal, almost completed, & you backed out!"
China's announcement Monday said tariff increases are going ahead based on a list of $60 billion of U.S. goods Beijing released in August. That list was issued in response to Trump's threat to raise tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods to 25 percent from 10 percent. Beijing said then it wouldn't take action until the U.S. increases took effect, which finally happened on Friday.41 comments on this story
A 25 percent tariff applies to 2,493 items including industrial chemicals, electronic equipment, precision machinery and hundreds of food products, according to the Finance Ministry. A 20 percent penalty applies to 1,078 items, 10 percent to 974 items and 5 percent to 662 items.
Beijing is running out of U.S. imports for penalties due to the lopsided trade balance between the world's two largest economies, according to AP. Regulators have targeted American companies in China by slowing down customs clearance for shipments and processing of business licenses.
Contributing: Associated Press