Lobbying on trade-related issues could set a new record this year, as companies sound off on the Trump administration’s moves with tariffs and its push to get a replacement deal for Nafta ratified.
The number of companies, industry groups or other organizations that disclosed efforts to influence Washington on trade matters reached a record level of 1,299 last year.
And with this year not even half over, 1,063 organizations have reported trade-related lobbying, suggesting 2019 could deliver a new all-time high.
The heightened activity is shown in the below chart, which draws on disclosures analyzed by OpenSecrets.org, a website tracking money in politics that’s run by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
The hundreds of companies that have disclosed lobbying on trade this year range from Walmart Inc. WMT, -0.63% to Alphabet Inc.’s GOOG, -0.94% GOOGL, -0.82% Google, as well as from General Electric Co. GE, -0.96% to FedEx Corp. FDX, -2.09%
Walmart said in a first-quarter disclosure that its lobbying on trade has involved talking to lawmakers and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative about tariff proposals and the North American Free Trade Agreement’s replacement, known as the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. It’s among the retailers that has warned that tariffs mean higher prices for American shoppers for items such as cribs, backpacks and bikes.
Meanwhile, Google disclosed lobbying on tariffs targeting Chinese goods, technology-transfer issues and “new trade agreement negotiations.” GE said it lobbied on tariffs aimed at China, the Nafta replacement and U.S. sanctions, and FedEx disclosed “general monitoring” of trade matters, such as tariffs, the USMCA and “Open Skies” agreements, permitting cargo and passenger air travel between countries.
The Trump administration has levied tariffs on Chinese goods and on steel and aluminum products from a variety of countries. It also has threatened additional tariffs targeting China. In addition, President Donald Trump suspended plans to impose tariffs on Mexico after the U.S. ally agreed to do more to curb border crossings, but has cautioned that he could renew his tariff threat. Analysts warned such levies would complicate Trump’s efforts to get USMCA ratified by Congress.
Worries about tariffs have weighed on the U.S. stock market SPX, -0.38% DJIA, -0.40% , and Trump has shown he pays attention to the market. But Henrietta Treyz, director of economic policy at Veda Partners, predicts the president will continue to talk up tariffs even if that hurts stocks, because he has his 2020 reelection bid in mind.
“The president can’t win the 2020 election on a strong economy alone and needs the trade war and immigration to be front and center through the elections if he is to win over enough of the Electoral College to secure a second term,” she said in a recent note.
“Imagine what the 2020 election would be about without the trade war, or threats to tariff Mexico over immigration policy. The incumbent president stands to win a reelection with the two issues raging into 2020 — even with some modest economic hit — and may not otherwise.”
This report was first published on June 19, 2019.