Is there some light at the end of the tunnel for the fashion industry?
Just as it appeared that the Trump administration was forging ahead with its plans to hit a raft of Chinese imports — including handbags and apparel — with 25 percent tariffs, it has been reported that both sides are willing to hold talks for the first time in two months.
According to the Wall Street Journal, a Chinese vice minister is planning to travel to the U.S. at the invitation of the Treasury Department to discuss trade issues next Thursday and Friday.
“We are open to discussions on structural issues,” a White House spokesperson told the Journal. “We are looking to China to address these concerns” and to bring “concrete proposals.”
Fashion retailers might not want to get their hopes up too much, though, as it’s understood that the talks will be lower-level and just exploratory at this stage.
The fashion industry had remained relatively unscathed from the first $50 billion of tariffs that the U.S. announced it would slap on China ($34 billion have already been implemented and the next $16 billion are being introduced next week).
However, the sector was not so lucky the second time, with multiple items — from textiles to handbags to footwear and suitcases — appearing on the list of $200 billion worth of items that the administration said it would hit with 10 percent tariffs, later pushing that up to an eye-watering 25 percent.
It’s not yet known when these levies will come into being, but it is likely to be next month at the earliest after hearings from industry officials before a U.S. government panel in Washington, D.C. They begin on Monday.
And it could get worse as President Trump has pledged to go even further and target all imports if China further provokes the White House.