Tech industry comes out swinging against potential Trump tariffs

Over the weekend, the Information Technology Industry Council and 44 other trade associations banded together and published a letter demanding that the Trump administration take “measured” steps to stop China’s unfair trade practices and voiced its opposition to unilateral tariffs that could damage industries as diverse as electronics and agriculture.

As we have been covering on TechCrunch, the Trump administration is readying a comprehensive “all of the above” series of policies to fight China, including tariffs that might reach above $100 billion, visa restrictions on Chinese nationals, and prohibitions on Chinese capital from buying or investing in American companies. The Trump administration is expected to develop a policy here shortly as part of the conclusion of its section 301 trade investigation into China.

The letter warns that tariffs in particular could lead to “a chain reaction of negative consequences for the U.S. economy, provoking retaliation; stifling U.S. agriculture, goods, and services exports; and raising costs for businesses and consumers.”

Interestingly, the letter leaves open the door for tariffs. From the letter:

In particular, it is critically important that the Administration work with like-minded partners to address common concerns with China’s trade and investment policies. Imposition of unilateral tariffs by the Administration would only serve to split the United States from its allies, hinder joint action to effectively address shared challenges, and ensure that foreign companies take the place of markets that American companies, farmers and ranchers must vacate when China retaliates against U.S. tariffs.

Considering the wide variety of organizations that signed onto this letter, it is interesting to note that free trade arguments are not being used here forcefully, but rather that the United States should only implement trade restrictions with the cooperation of other nations.

The letter from the trade association in many ways mirrors a letter released by House Republicans two weeks ago that similarly urged the administration against imposing unilateral tariffs on aluminum and steel, tariffs that the Trump administration had already announced that it is implementing.

Outside ITI, the signatories of the trade association letter included a spate of tech industry-affiliated associations, including Allied for Startups, CompTIA, the Computer and Communications Industry Association, the Consumer Technology Association, the Developers Alliance, the Internet Association, the Software & Information Industry Association, TechNet, and the Telecommunications Industry Association.