Trump’s China tariffs: ‘Christmas could be a lot more expensive’
Shanghai — If you’re an American who likes wearing Victoria’s Secret bras, Guess jeans or Nike shoes, chances are you’ll feel the impact of the $50bn in tariffs US President Donald Trump is expected to unleash on Chinese imports.
A vast amount of items used by American consumers — from Under Armour leggings to Bath & Body Works shower gel and Samsonite luggage — are sourced from Chinese- or Hong Kong-based companies and factories, fuelling the $450bn in Chinese goods imported to the US annually. Broad-based tariffs would likely translate into higher sticker prices in stores across the US.
Companies are already planning for it. If tariffs are raised on its products, Samsonite International CEO Ramesh Tainwala sees one logical recourse. "We pass it on to the consumer," said Tainwala, who spoke to reporters in Hong Kong last week. "We have the pricing power. We are the ones who will move first and the industry will follow."
Samsonite is in an unusual global position. While the world’s biggest luggage maker is based in Massachusetts in the US, it is listed on the Hong Kong exchange. Samsonite executives say it manufactures two thirds of its products in China and currently pays a tariff of more than 25% on them when imported by the US.
The impact on other American companies would be widespread, fanning out across the US because of the intricate links with international supply chains. Tariffs hitting one company in China can have a ripple effect across dozens of customers in the US. The connections are particularly strong across the apparel and technology industries.
Hong Kong-based Li & Fung alone collects about 64% of revenue from about 50 consumer-product companies in the US, including retailers Walmart, Macy’s and JC Penney. For Regina Miracle International Holdings, a Hong Kong-based manufacturer of intimate wear, American demand for lingerie makes up about 60% of revenue. Its customers include lingerie brands Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works.
Lenovo Group, the Beijing-based computer manufacturer, gets almost a third of its $43bn in annual revenue from North America by selling its products to companies such as HP and Verizon.
Apparel and footwear, telecommunications equipment and household appliances are among the Chinese manufacturing sectors with the biggest exposure to the US market, according to a Moody’s research note released on Thursday.
Because of the complexities of international supply chains, the impact from tariffs may be felt beyond Chinese manufacturers and their US customers, Moody’s analysts Marie Diron and Michael Taylor wrote in the note. Products from other parts of Asia may also be vulnerable, as items made in neighbouring countries destined for American stores often wind their way through China.
Closer to home in the US, smaller companies may feel the brunt of restrictive trade actions, according to Gary Huang, the Shanghai-based founder of consultancy 80/20 Sourcing. Multinationals with mature supply chains, such as Walmart, could shift to Vietnam or India to avoid the tariffs, he said. On Amazon, more than half of product listings come from smaller businesses that source from China, which Huang said would be hit hard.
"These guys are going to be left holding the new tariff bill and those prices will go straight up," Huang said. "This year’s Christmas could be a lot more expensive."