The tariff forced Cap America, based in Missouri, a sports embroidery dress that bought most of its hoods from China since 2001, to make changes. The company is testing a new supplier in Bangladesh for some orders and, after having eaten the entire cost of the tariffs for months, CEO Phil Page has also decided to raise prices on his hats.
Page and business owners across the country are waiting to see how trade negotiations between US and Chinese negotiators will advance when they meet this week in Beijing.
Trump has threatened to raise the 10% tariff that put $ 200 billion worth of Chinese goods at 25% if an agreement is not reached. But if the negotiations went well, the tariffs could be lifted altogether
Unlike the oil price embargoes of the years & # 70, which caused long queues at gas stations, drama ̵
The administration has strategically placed the highest tariffs on imports used primarily in the production of other items, such as semiconductors or refrigerators. The last round, which arrived later in the year, included a variety of consumer goods, ranging from luggage to baseball gloves, but the rate is lower.
The duty is not passed on to consumers if importers or retailers decide to absorb part of the additional cost, which many, like Page, have done during the holiday season.
In a recent survey by the National Association for Business Administration, 94% of companies said they did not raise prices due to changes in trade policy. Most did not delay hiring or other investments, either.
Some signs indicate that tariffs may start to have a greater impact on the US economy.
Sales declined during the Christmas holidays and January at the baggage store in Lubbock, Texas, where owner Tiffany Zarfas Williams receives emails from sellers of price increases almost every day. Backpacks, suitcases and suitcases were all hit with a 10% fee.
Not only has he had to raise prices, but many of his customers are farmers who are struggling with tariffs on their exports, and he worries that they may have less money in their pockets to spend.
"If we were to get one for the team, we could increase by 10%, but I just want to make sure that the rates lead us to the final goal," said Zarfas Williams.
The Trump administration used tariffs as a tool to bring Chinese officials to the negotiating table and tackle what they consider to be unfair business practices, such as intellectual property theft by American companies and forced technology transfers into exchange of commercial activities in China.
The United States has fought China on these issues for years and many in the business community believe it needs to be resolved.
"I think the big difference under the Trump administration is that we have moved on to a more combative US-China relationship," said Phil Levy, a senior of the Chicago Global Affairs Council who worked as a senior economist for trade under President George W. Bush.
"They want to isolate China as much as possible," he said.
Meanwhile, entrepreneurs like Cap Page's are doing their best to get around the uncertainty. Page has effectively increased its imports from China last year, in an attempt to anticipate potential new tariffs and liquidated the purchase of a new warehouse to store the extra inventory.
"It is difficult to assess what your administration will do," he said. "They are so unpredictable."