WASHINGTON – American businesses are paying much more in tariffs than they did last year, due mainly to President Donald Trump's aggressive trade policies, according to an analysis by industry groups.
U.S. businesses shelled out $4.4 billion in tariffs in September, a surge of more than 50 percent from the same month a year ago, according to the groups, which are operating under a coalition called Tariffs Hurt the Heartland. The increase was largely driven by $1.4 billion in Trump administration tariffs on Chinese imports and foreign steel and aluminum, the group said.
"The historic rise in costs for American businesses, farmers and consumers is only the beginning," coalition spokesman Charles Boustany said in a statement. Boustany, a Republican, represented Louisiana in the House for over a decade.
The coalition worked with the Trade Partnership, a consulting firm, to calculate the cost of the tariffs using government data. The Trump administration has imposed tariffs on several fronts, including against long-standing economic allies. In March, the president announced new duties on all steel and aluminum imports, citing national security concerns. The measures cost U.S. companies about $545 million in September, the data show.
Even more costly were tariffs levied against China, which the administration has accused of stealing U.S. intellectual property. Those tariffs accounted for $800 million in September, even though the bulk didn't take effect until the end of the month.
Source: Tariffs Hurt the Heartland
Trump appears to feel his strategy is working, however. He has repeatedly threatened to raise existing tariff rates and add duties on another $267 billion of Chinese goods.
"We're doing very well the way we're doing it now," Trump told reporters Friday.
U.S. exports also suffered as countries fought back with tariffs of their own on American products ranging from soybeans to bourbon to cheese. Shipments of products subject to retaliatory tariffs declined by $2.5 billion, or 26 percent, from the previous year. At the same time, products not subject to those tariffs remained steady, according to the analysis.
The boating industry has been particularly hit hard by the trade battle. Bill Yeargin, CEO of Correct Craft, testified before the Commerce Department last week against an anti-dumping tariff of 120 percent on aluminum sheet from China. The layering effect of new tariffs has reduced the availability of raw materials, driven up prices and closed off once-promising markets.
"As costs go up, we can't pass all that to our customers, so that impacts our bottom line," Yeargin said. "And then as markets shut down in Europe and Mexico and Canada, that reduces our sales."
Yeargin's company is based in Florida, which saw a 16 percent decline in exports of goods subject to tariffs. Meanwhile, exports that weren't hit by the tariffs rose by 17 percent.
The data still do not fully reflect the most recent round of tariffs imposed on Chinese goods.
"Instead of doubling down on tariffs that this data shows are clearly hurting Americans, it is time for meaningful negotiations to take place," Boustany said.
White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow told CNBC on Friday that tariffs could be lifted, but not quickly.
"If in the next bunch of months, if trade talks really improve and China begins to show that they will make significant reforms, the president has said in that case tariffs could be removed, but we haven't seen that yet," Kudlow said on "Fast Money Halftime Report."