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U.S.-China Trade Tariffs Could Set Back Much of Trump Job Gains, Says Study

May 1, 2018, 8:47 PM UTC

Even as U.S. officials try to assure Americans that a war-of-words with China over trade tariffs is merely a negotiation tactic, the National Retail Federation is highlighting just how much the U.S. has to lose if a trade war does come to pass.

A proposed $150 billion in tariffs against Chinese imports could wipe out 455,000 U.S. jobs and reduce the country’s gross domestic product by $49 billion, according to a study by the NRF and the Consumer Technology Association,

Combined with President Donald Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs, the estimated number of jobs that could be lost could rise near one million—setting back the number of positions added during the Trump presidency by nearly half. The U.S. added 2.06 million jobs in 2017.

“As administration officials prepare to head to China for trade talks, the livelihoods of American workers hang in the balance,” NRF CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement Tuesday. “We hope this is the start of a serious negotiation process that leads to a more open Chinese market and protects U.S. jobs and economic growth. We must resolve this trade dispute without resorting to job-killing tariffs and retaliation.”

The same study noted that farmers, said to be among Trump’s main voting base, would be hit especially hard. The NRF and CTA added that the $150 billion in tariffs could lead to a 15% reduction in farmers’ income.

The study comes amid signs that some businesses are already holding back on hiring as they try to determine the outcome of the U.S. China trade talks. States that are most impacted by the tariffs China proposed in retaliation to U.S. ones appear to be adding fewer jobs, according to Deutsche Bank.

Meanwhile, the president agreed to delay tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum for about a month. The grace period will apply to major allies such as the European Union and Canada. At the same time, Trump has called for U.S. trade representatives to look into another $100 billion in tariffs on Chinese imports on top of the $50 billion already proposed. China in turn has proposed some $50 million on U.S. imports, much of which has been focused on agriculture.