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The echo of discontent among businesses regarding the intensifying trade tensions between the United States and China has become louder and clearer. But in a sudden shift, Washington appears to have tuned out the voice of the business community – an indication the Trump administration is taking a harder line against Beijing and is not willing to back off.
In recent weeks and months, business groups have continually raised their voices on behalf of their members, urging a softer approach with China that would preserve the access of their respective industries to the vast Chinese market. Many of these groups have even been willing to publicly disagree with the president’s tactics.
However, there has been no sign of reciprocity from Washington, as the Trump administration’s stance has become increasingly adversarial. Despite the protests of businesses, the Trump administration has continued to ramp up tariffs on Chinese imports and to pursue aggressive enforcement action against Chinese companies.
It appears Washington is cutting out the middleman. Rather than engaging with the business community, Washington seems to be opting for a more direct approach to addressing its differences with China. This change could be due to mounting pressure from within the White House to take a harder line against Beijing or, more likely, a lack of confidence in the effectiveness of business lobbying.
Regardless of the cause, the effect of Washington not listening to businesses is indisputable. In the short-term, businesses have been forced to endure mounting economic distress due to increased tariffs, while longer-term uncertainty has arisen from dwindling prospects of a decisive resolution to the trade conflict.
The Trump administration’s strategy exposes the unenviable predicament faced by many businesses. On the one hand, businesses are hamstrung in their ability to advocate for their interests due to the increasingly virulent rhetoric of the White House. On the other, it is becoming increasingly clear that Washington is no longer heeding their arguments. This could be the start of a prolonged period of economic turbulence and peril for businesses affected by the escalating U.S.-China trade tensions.