Sixty US trade groups form coalition to oppose tariffs

By Tony Esposito
Thu Sep 13 2018, 15:52 PM

NMMA members are considering laying off workers after seeing costs rise as much as 35%

More than 60 US trade groups on Wednesday launched the ‘Americans for Free Trade’ coalition to take on the fight against the Trump administration’s trade tariffs – and the hard-hit recreational boating industry is among them.

Reuters reports that following months of behind-the-scenes lobbying, the coalition vows to take the fight public as a result of the billions of dollars of tariffs imposed by president Trump in an effort to use them as a threat to win concessions or in the belief they will create jobs.

“A lot of other interest groups thought they wouldn’t go this long or go this deep, but the layering effect [of tariffs] has finally gotten everyone to say: ‘Enough is enough’,” Nicole Vasilaros, the top lobbyist for the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), told the news agency. Vasilaros said NMMA members are weighing laying off workers after seeing costs rise as much as 35%.

The business coalition includes some heavy-hitter groups representing some of the nation’s largest companies. Among them, the American Petroleum Institute, which represents the largest refiners like Exxon Mobil Corp and Chevron Corp, and the Retail Industry Leaders Association, which represents companies like Target Corp and Autozone Inc.

The coalition grew out of weekly meetings featuring industries organised by the National Retail Federation (NRF). The group will target Republican members of Congress in five key states – Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana and Tennessee. While not engaging in electioneering ahead of November 6 elections where control of Congress is at stake, it will urge constituents to discuss the trade issue with lawmakers. The group plans to expand that effort to a dozen states by the end of the year.

The coalition hopes to push Republican lawmakers to press Trump to abandon tariffs by convincing him that his trade policy could undo his tax and deregulation push.

The groups announced the coalition Wednesday with a jointly funded campaign of more than US$3m, involving town hall-style events in key congressional districts ahead of the midterm elections, digital advertising and other grassroots outreach to Congress and the administration, according to Bloomberg News.

The new campaign will show the damage the tariffs are having across the US economy and the “real economic consequences for American families,” Brian Kuehl, executive director of Farmers for Free Trade, a non-profit supported by major agricultural groups, said.

There are kick-off events planned starting next week in Chicago, Nashville, Pennsylvania and Ohio, with other events before the midterms “in key communities throughout the heartland,” the groups said.

“Our motto right now is, ‘Try everything’,” Vasilaros said.