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Corporate Giants Jump Into Trump’s Tariff Fight

Microsoft, Cisco among those that started lobbying on tariffs this year

Microsoft founder Bill Gates rides the Senate escalator with Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., in 2014. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Microsoft founder Bill Gates rides the Senate escalator with Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., in 2014. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

President Donald Trump’s burgeoning trade war has prompted some big names to join the fight on tariffs.

Of the 20 largest spenders that indicated they were lobbying on tariffs in the most recent round of disclosure filings, nine of these companies or trade associations began doing so in the past year.

Google — which has spent about $11 million on lobbying so far this year, according to its reports to Congress — leads that list of newcomers. It reported lobbying for the first time on tariffs in the first quarter of this year. The tech giant specifically indicated it was lobbying the House and Senate on “China tariffs.”

Microsoft, another tech leader on the list, began lobbying Trump’s Commerce Department on solar tariffs at the end of 2018. Earlier this year, the Trump administration approved tariffs on solar panel cells imported from China.

Other big spenders new to the tariff game include the American Chemistry Council, Amazon, Exxon and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

“There is such unified concern over the threat of tariffs our members felt it important to engage as an industry,” said Wade Newton, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. “The Alliance’s big issue has been explaining the impact a trade war would have on the industry.”

The biggest spender that lobbied on tariff issues was the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which spent $15.2 million. The disclosure reports, which are mandated by Congress, do not require filers to break down how much they spent lobbying on different issues.


Beyond targeting the Commerce Department and Congress, lobbyists have worked to influence other agencies on the tariff issue — the Department of Defense, U.S. Trade Representative and the National Economic Council among them.

Trump began discussing tariffs during his campaign for president, when he threatened to slap tariffs on Chinese goods.

He made good on those threats this year, expanding the scope from solar panels and washing machines to steel and aluminum imports. China, Mexico, Canada and the European Union have responded with retaliatory tariffs.

Trump praised tariffs broadly on Tuesday morning as a tool to threaten any country that has “treated the United States unfairly on Trade.”

Correction: A previous version of the graphic in this story misidentified the timing of when lobbying efforts began for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Google.


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