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By Erik Sherman
When the saber rattling continues between Washington and Beijing, some sectors of the US economy have become harder than others. But with the threat of additional $ 325 billion of Chinese import tariffs, a wider US industrial policy will begin to feel the pain – as consumers.
The tariffs in the ongoing trade war with China have already scored victims. Among them are the customers of Marker Construction, a home-based business in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
"We've seen a price increase of at least 15 percent with all that involves steel," says company president Peggy Marker to NBC News. The increased price of nails, screws, metal frames and reinforcement rods is now being passed on to its commercial customers and running up to project costs with hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"They must look at worst and then wait and see what happens," Marker said. "Now that there is an agreement on the table with Mexico and Canada, it can also help settle in the market," she added, referring to the recent agreement that the US and its neighbors lost tariffs for imported aluminum and steel.  As part of his "America First" policy, President Donald Trump said he would protect the American metal industries – but these promises seem to have fallen flat. While steel producers and aluminum producers experienced a short-term improvement in their revenues, the relatively small number of jobs achieved by this industry was far more than offset by the slowdown in construction, manufacturing, and other business areas, with rising metal prices and reduced availability. had a negative impact.
"The price peaked in July or August last year, has been steadily declining since and hit a plateau two or three months ago," said Stephen Schober, CEO of Metal Supermarkets, a supplier of small quantities of metals to local manufacturers. hobbyists, maintenance operations and municipal yards.
Meanwhile, farmers are facing a more profound future. China has reportedly suspended all US soybean purchases, Bloomberg reported on Thursday.
"Soybeans are our first export to China," says Dan North, Finance Manager at Euler Hermes USA. Shipments went "in principle gone to zero a few months ago" and prices are now at an 11-year low.
"It will certainly be a boost if these tariffs are removed, but I would not expect a jump back to high levels before," said the North.
Farmers are the biggest losers during the wage war – and they can never be done completely, even with the current special grants. "Agricultural agreements are long-term contracts," said Hamid Mohtadi, a professor of economics at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. When China imposed retaliatory duties on soybeans, the buyers went to Brazil, another major producer of the crop.
"Under the best circumstances, it can take years to renegotiate contracts again," Mohtadi said. "Other agricultural products won't go much better." And China is now even less likely to put all its eggs in a basket as it did with the United States
So far, the problems have been largely unnoticed by consumers, as real pressures have been on intermediates rather than consumer goods. Prices have not increased enough for end-users, as the companies have absorbed the increases.
The fourth tranche of tariffs on Chinese goods could change all that. Products in the next round include large categories where imports play a major role in consumer spending.
"You have to look at [the impact] regarding imports," says Tom Runiewicz, vice president of business information provider IHS Markit. "Computers and electronics are almost $ 190 billion. That's almost 34 percent of what we use for computers and electronics." Eighty-two percent of other electrical equipment comes from China.
About 45 percent of clothing and textile sales in the United States are imported from China. Then a quarter of all furniture is sold. "Everything you buy at Target, Walmart, probably even Ikea, comes many cheap stuff from China," Runiewicz said.
Retailers have not been shy about the amount of costs that will be passed on to consumers. Nike and Adidas were in a group of 173 footwear companies signing an open letter that said the proposed increased rates on shoes alone "would add $ 7 billion in extra cost to our customers every year."
Walmart, Home Depot and Macy have also addressed the effects of tariffs on their bottom line. Earlier this month, Walmart said that higher tariffs would result in increased prices for consumers, even with the company's efforts to ease the pain of working with different vendors and different countries.
Last week, Home Depot announced that it has already seen a $ 1 billion hit from higher rates, and that the latest round of increases will mean an additional $ 1 billion in annual cost of goods increases to the business.