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Trump delayed the 15 percent tariffs on about $156 billion of Chinese smartphones, laptops, toys, video games and other goods that were supposed to go into effect in September to December in an effort to ease pressure on American families during the holiday season.
“We think it is incredibly important for the ongoing negotiations to be allowed to continue without the specter of new tariffs taking effect before a deal is signed. As you noted when the ... 4B tariffs were announced, you delayed implementation of those tariffs specifically to avoid harming American consumers over the holidays. This delay should be extended until a deal is reached," AFT said in the letter.
The Dec. 15 tariffs would be the latest escalation of the U.S.-China trade war since the president announced the possibility of the first phase of a potential agreement in November after successful talks between U.S. and Chinese officials in October. That first phase, however, has been pushed back.
"We strongly support using the Phase One deal to include reciprocal elimination of existing tariffs, as has been reported in the press. Such an action would send an important economic signal while providing immediate relief to job creators throughout the U.S.," AFT added.
U.S. businesses ranging from electronics to toy manufacturers say tariffs have done nothing but hurt American companies. The 4B list, in particular, will affect a number of businesses that make large sales during the holiday season. Toy Association President and CEO Steve Pasierb, for example, accused the government of using "real people ... as pawns in the ongoing trade war" in a Dec. 10 statement.
"The government needs to stop using real people, real companies, and American jobs – 700,000 of them – as pawns in the ongoing trade war with China," Pasierb said in the statement. "Tariffs were initially intended to be a temporary tool for leverage in U.S.-China trade negotiations. In practice, they will amount to nothing more than a tax on American families and their children and cause irreparable harm to companies of all sizes."
The president recently told reporters at the NATO Summit in London on Dec. 3 that a potential agreement might be delayed until after the 2020 elections.
"In some ways, I like the idea of waiting until after the election for the China deal, but they want to make a deal now, and we’ll see whether the deal’s gonna be right -- it’s gotta be right,” Trump said, adding he has "no deadline."
AFT concluded that it believes tariffs are the wrong approach to holding China accountable for its trade misdeeds because they are causing "economic harm" to Americans.
"We want the U.S. to reach a trade deal with China that achieves meaningful change in our trading relationship with China and provides business certainty for the future. We continue to believe that tariffs are the wrong approach, and we believe these tariffs are causing escalating economic harm to American businesses, workers, farmers and families across the country," the organization wrote.