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Business Groups Set Trade War Protest

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A coalition of more than 200 trade associations spanning agriculture, manufacturing, retail, technology, oil and even liquor will begin a new two-pronged attack next week to try to end trade policies they see as damaging. The campaign, called Tariffs Hurt the Heartland, will involve blanketing Capitol Hill with farmers and other business owners, plus debuting an ad aimed at parents that essentially says the trade war might be endangering babies.

The escalation comes at a crucial time: U.S. and Chinese officials are meeting this week with just a month to go before U.S. tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese imports are slated to more than double to 25 percent. It also marks a shift in strategy. After a year of struggling to directly sway President Donald Trump and his inner circle, including running ads on Fox News — his favorite cable channel — corporate lobbyists are ratcheting up pressure outside the White House.

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“People have to think through different strategies because the normal operating procedure doesn’t work,” said Matt Priest, chief executive officer of the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America, which is part of the wider coalition. “Some of that strategy is paying off, but the response isn’t the response we would’ve liked.”

Next week, about 100 executives and business owners from companies big and small will visit Washington to lobby Congress, especially the large freshman class — mostly Democrats — that may still be formulating their stances on trade. Support is also needed for a bipartisan bill intended to rein in the president’s trade authority.

The group descending on Washington includes people like Brent Bible, who runs a 5,000-acre corn and soybean farm in Romney, Ind. Soybeans were hit by retaliatory Chinese tariffs last year, pushing down prices. His farm also took a hit when U.S. levies on steel and aluminum made equipment pricier.

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