Trump's Trade War Leaves the Future of the Blue Jean Industry to Hang

The president trade war is harming American small business.



President Trump's trade war has hit an American fashion staple: blue jeans.

Bloomberg has interviewed Victor Lytvinenko of Raleigh Denim Workshop, a blue jeans company based in Greensboro, North Carolina. After Trump's tariffs on steel and aluminum went into effect in June, the E.U. responded with a 25 percent tariff on several American goods, including bourbon, corn, and jeans. The European market accounted for $31 million worth of America's jean sales—16 percent of the industry's global exports. Lytvinenko is already losing European customers.

He's not the only one suffering. Roy Slaper—owner of Roy Denim in Oakland, California—tells Bloomberg that the tariffs are "another blow" to an already fading industry. (In California, an increase in the minimum wage has already prompted apparel factories to either close or move elsewhere.)

And the jeans industry is hardly alone. This week U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer revealed plans to impose a 25 percent tariff on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, about half of the country's imports to the United States. That's more than double the previous rate of 10 percent. The proposed list of affected goods includes food, tobacco products, electronics, and even paper.

The National Retail Foundation has just released a statement decrying the proposed tariffs, which is says will "hurt U.S. families and workers more than they will hurt China." It adds: "A broader, long-term strategy is needed that will bring about fair trade without punishing the wrong people. And those people are American workers and their families. They deserve better."