Unlike previous tariff arrangements, this one has had little in the way of planning. That’s knocked businesses on their heels and left them wondering whether the president’s tariffs are legitimate policy or merely political bluster.
“We’re in a whole new world,” P. Welles Orr, an international trade adviser who worked as a trade representative under George H.W. Bush, told NBC News.
“Companies left and right are getting caught off guard,” Craig Kennison, an auto industry analyst with Robert W. Baird & Co, told The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel this week. “It’s hard to run a business when the rules keep changing.”
Harley isn’t the only company having to reassess its corporate model on the fly.
CEOs surveyed by the influential Business Roundtable lobby said this month they’ve reduced their hiring plans for the year by 13 percent and trimmed their spending expectations by 4 percent.
Trump escalated the trade war tensions Sunday, threatening in a tweet to hit back harder at any country that has placed tariffs on American goods, demanding they “remove those Barriers & Tariffs or be met with more than Reciprocity by the U.S.A.”
“This administration is about shock and awe — and in trade policy that is clearly by design,” Orr said. “To this administration that chaos is a good thing. It’s got people up in arms and that’s its purpose.”
For now, Trump’s trade war is injecting uncertainty and confusion into the lives and job prospects of the very workers who may have elected him.