The trade dispute between China and the United States could mean higher prices in the United States for everything from clothing to surfboards, coffee makers, cellular telephones and fax machines.
"This is a ricochet hit on American families," Robert Hall, an international trade attorney for the National Retail Federation, said Wednesday of the Clinton administration's plan to slap tariffs of 100 percent or more on $3 billion of imports from China, primarily clothing and electronic gear.China now ranks fourth behind Canada, Japan and Mexico as a U.S. trading partner. About $46 billion worth of goods were imported from China last year, up from $39 billion in 1994, according to the Commerce Department.
Still, some Americans considered the tariffs a justifiable response to Chinese piracy of American software, movies and music.
Jeannie Rusey said in New York City: "I don't care how much money Walt Disney makes, per se. But I know for a fact that when companies lose profits, it affects us, because people lose their jobs."
Other shoppers suggested the sanctions would change their buying habits.
"If it's going to be a 100 percent duty, wow. That's going to increase the price and I'm not going to buy it," said Mike Carr, who was browsing in a Los Angeles men's clothing store for a shirt.
Chinese textiles are already subject to quotas and a tariff averaging 20 percent, costing the average American family about $10 per week, said Laura E. Jones, executive director of the United States Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel. To her, additional tariffs would tax Americans of moderate means to protect the profits of wealthy corporations.
"Why should middle America be paying more for their bras, underwear, pants and T-shirts, just to protect Michael Jackson CDs, Arnold Schwartzenegger videotapes, and `Babe'?" Jones said. "By trying to limit the goods from China, you're talking about a massive tax on clothing, and particularly low-cost clothing."
Businesses will have 30 days to make a case to regulators as to why the items they sell should be taken off the list before the sanctions take effect in June.
The effect on catalog retailers like Service Merchandisers and Best Co. could be devastating, because Christmas catalogs will already be printed then, said Robin Lanier, vice president for international trade and environment at the International Mass Retail Association.
"My catalog showrooms will go right up the wall," Lanier said.
The American Textile Manufacturers Institute applauded the tariffs. U.S. manufacturers of shoes and textiles have been ravaged by low-cost imports.