A Chamber of Commerce memo review by the Wall Street Journal Thursday indicates the United States could bleed upwards of 2.6 million jobs if President Donald Trump’s trade policies were to take full effect.
The memo—from Tom Donohue, the chamber’s chief executive, to his board of directors—followed news Thursday morning that President Donald Trump’s administration would make good on threats to apply tariffs to steel and aluminum imports from neighbors and allies, including Canada, Mexico and the European Union.
In the memo, Mr. Donohue cited a number of the administration’s trade initiatives that he wrote would hurt growth and employment. Should the president, for example, pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement, as Mr. Trump has threatened to do many times, it would cause a net loss of 1.8 million jobs, he wrote. Efforts to reach a deal and enact a new version of Nafta this year have stalled.
Donahue said a “growing list of tariffs proposed or imposed” by the Trump administration, along with the endangered NAFTA, hold the potential to “undermine the economic progress” the U.S. has made.
“The current approach—and the obvious retaliation that will occur in response—poses a serious risk of raising barriers and reducing Americans’ access to vital global markets,” Mr. Donohue wrote in the memo. “Our businesses will lose customers, workers will lose jobs, and American consumers will lose family income through higher taxes and higher prices.”
The chamber cited studies that found hundreds of thousands of jobs could be lost due to the administration’s tariff plans on metals, Chinese goods and the auto industry. The Business Roundtable, another business group, estimates that 1.8 million U.S. jobs could be lost in the first year if Mr. Trump follows through with warnings about exiting Nafta.
However, Trump and his commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, disagree that their protectionist stance will needlessly harm the economy, believing instead that protecting U.S. industries will lead to robust growth.
After announcing the implementation of steel and aluminum tariffs on imports from America’s allies Thursday, Ross suggested in an interview that Americans will barely notice the potential price increases that might arise:
“The beer, soft drink and soup cans—it’s all a fraction of a penny on each of those,” Mr. Ross said Thursday on CNBC. “In terms of the automobile it’s also a fraction of 1 percent, and for the economy overall, it’s a very small fraction of 1 percent.”