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Levi Strauss hits back at escalating tariff spat

Jeans giant Levi Strauss & Co has raised concerns over the impact on US jobs, the supply chain, and the cost to the consumer from the tit-fot-tat tariff spat between the US and EU.

The European Commission plans to implement higher duties on US products, including clothing, from 22 July, in response to punitive tariffs from the Trump administration on imports of steel and aluminium.

Separately, the US is considering tariffs on an additional $200bn of Chinese goods on top of an extra 25% duty that will apply to $50bn worth of product lines from 6 July.

Speaking after an organised visit by the US Global Value Chain Coalition to Washington DC with a group of supply chain leaders, Levi Strauss & Co's SVP of global distribution and logistics, Steve Berube, outlined the importance of promoting domestic economic growth and its impact on employment.

"It's easy to see how the slowing down of global trade has a direct effect on jobs," he wrote in a blog. "That's why LS&Co, along with our fellow USGVC coalition members, share in the concern that current trade policy proposals may put those jobs in direct jeopardy. And it's why we're committed to advocating for them. Simply put, these jobs are worth protecting; not just for LS&Co and our operations, but for the employees and communities that rely upon them."

In addition to protecting American jobs, Berube said the coalition also wanted to ensure the country's trade policies promote increased investments at home.

"LS&Co is proud to be making a US$70m investment in distribution centres across multiple states, which includes a $20m steel purchase to refurbish our infrastructure.

"However, the Trump Administration's recent actions to imposed tariffs on steel imports raises some uncertainties around this would-be boost to the job market and economy in those communities. If the cost of these investments goes up, that has a ripple effect throughout the supply chain that could result in higher prices for consumers, and the stifling of future growth for the company and regions in which we operate."

Trump's recent proposal to impose a 25% tariff on Chinese imports could also have an impact on Levi Strauss's business, Berube noted.

"With this in mind, my message to policymakers during my first trip to Capitol Hill was simple: promote trade policies that support American jobs and economic growth here in the United States, not stifle them.

"As a representative of Levi Strauss & Co – and the thousands of workers we employ – I ask that Congress listen to businesses, large and small, who are raising concerns over how tariffs and limits to free trade will affect our ability to deliver quality products at competitive prices to consumers."


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