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U.S. businesses paralyzed by trade uncertainty

Credit: Reuters - Politics
Published on December 10, 2019 - Duration: 02:10s

U.S. businesses paralyzed by trade uncertainty

From a denim plant in rural Georgia to a San Diego headphone maker, nagging uncertainty over when President Donald Trump's trade wars might end, if ever, is confounding many U.S. manufacturers.

Yahaira Jacquez reports.

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U.S. businesses paralyzed by trade uncertainty

(SOUNDBITE) (English) WIN CRAMER, CEO OF JLAB AUDIO, SAYING: "As of September 1st, 99 percent of our products have been impacted by 15 percent tariffs." Win Cramer is president of JLab Audio, which makes Bluetooth headphones, designed in San Diego but made in China.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) WIN CRAMER, CEO OF JLAB AUDIO, SAYING: "I could go to a number of different countries, maybe even the United States to build those.

But we need 50000 a day.

And when you need 50000 a day, there's really only one place that has the sophisticated infrastructure to handle that type of scale.

And that's China." Leaving it caught in the crosshairs of Washington's escalating trade battle.

Cramer says he's paid out millions of dollars in tariffs since September to keep consumers from bearing the cost.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) WIN CRAMER, CEO OF JLAB AUDIO, SAYING: "Those millions of dollars that were earmarked for those investments are now going straight to the U.S. government." Though he doesn't know how much longer he can keep absorbing the hit, especially as President Donald Trump has threatened to impose fresh tariffs on goods coming from China in the next week.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) WIN CRAMER, CEO OF JLAB AUDIO, SAYING: "The uncertainty makes it nearly impossible to make mid- to long-term business decisions...We have to make really short-term decisions almost week by week by week, because that's how quickly it's changing." Cramer is in a similar positions as many other American manufacturers - paralyzed from uncertainty over Trump's trade wars.

This month alone the president announced higher tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Argentina and Brazil.

And threatened 100 percent tariffs on cheese and other goods from France.

While progress on talks to end the US China trade war remains elusive.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) WIN CRAMER, CEO OF JLAB AUDIO, SAYING: "If it's not week by week by week, it's tweet by tweet by tweet.

And when you, when you have that, when you're working under that sort of structure, you can't plan long-term.

And that's what makes it so, so frustrating." By one measure - Americans have shelled out an extra $42 billion due to tariffs since the trade war began.

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