US trade groups urge against Vietnam tariffs

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A group of 76 industry bodies has urged the US government to engage with Vietnam rather than resorting to tariffs as part of an ongoing trade dispute.


A coalition of business groups in the US has called on the US Trade Representative (USTR) to avoid resorting to tariffs as part of a trade dispute with Vietnam.

In total, 76 groups representing sectors from across the economy - from food to fashion - put their names to a letter to Katherine Tai, including the US Chamber of Commerce, the National Retail Federation and the Internet Association, Bloomberg reports.

They wrote: "If the administration has concerns about elements of the US trading relationship with Vietnam, then engagement is required - not more tariffs."

The associations went on to argue that there is not enough evidence that Vietnam has been engaging in unfair trade practices to justify levies in imports, and any such move would undermine relations with an increasingly important trading partner.

Vietnam is the 13th-largest trading partner for Washington, while the US is the biggest export market for the south-east Asian nation, Bloomberg noted. 

In recent years, many US importers have turned to the country as a "trustworthy alternative to China", the letter noted, with imported raw materials and completed products now vital to the success of many US manufacturers. Any new tariffs on these items would undermine the competitiveness of American firms, they added.

US authorities have been investigating Vietnam on a number of alleged issues. For instance, the USTR is looking at imports of timber products due to suspicions they have been illegally harvested or traded.

In January, meanwhile, the US labelled Hanoi’s currency actions as unreasonable, which paved the way for punitive actions such as tariffs under section 301 of the 1974 Trade Act. Washington has until October to decide on whether to impose duties.