Views expressed in letters to the editor do not represent opinions of The Gazette-Virginian or staff members.
To the editor:
For over 24 years, I have owned and operated a water bottling facility in Southern Virginia. Through the years I have learned the ins and outs of bottled water, the industry, and how to operate a business. One of the most critical responsibilities of owning a business is the monetary responsibility I have to my employees. No matter what happens with my business and the industry, at the end of the day I owe 80 employees a paycheck every week.
It is a responsibility that is becoming harder and more expensive for me to fulfill in today’s economy because of mounting costs due partly to the ongoing Section 301 tariffs on imports from China and other economic pressures facing the country.
The concept of collecting water, bottling it, and selling it may seem simple, but several core aspects of my businesses have been complicated by the increasing price of water coolers and refrigerators. I sell bottled water that is used with coolers. Currently though, the cost of coolers is incredibly high due to the tariffs that have been placed on them since they are an imported product from China, which reverberates throughout my business and the customers who rely on us for the products they sell.
These tariffs are taxes implemented by the United States federal government to hold the Chinese government accountable for its trade abuses and create leverage for a trade deal – which China hasn’t upheld. Businesses cannot avoid paying the inflated costs of importing them by purchasing water coolers from domestic companies because there are not any made in the United States. And, because these tariffs place a higher cost burden on people like me who need to buy water coolers, they create a ripple effect to other parts of the industry and to the end consumers.
Previously the federal government, in recognition that placing a tax on imported water coolers was a burden; initially granted an exclusion allowing bottled water companies to bypass the added cost. However, that exclusion expired at the beginning of 2021, meaning most companies are paying the extra cost of the tariffs themselves. It is not just bottled water manufacturers suffering from these tariffs either. Companies and industries across the nation are hurting because of the additional fees paid to our government.
The problem is only exacerbated by the fact that while our economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, we are experiencing record inflation rates, high labor costs and supply chain issues. The federal government should not be burdening American workers, families and businesses even further by taxing them for the goods they need.
If President Joe Biden and Ambassador Katherine Tai were serious about helping Americans through this difficult period, then addressing tariffs on Chinese imports should be a top priority. I also know we Virginians can count on Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) to be a voice of reason in Washington and do what’s right for business owners and consumers.
Placing taxes on these goods might seem like an effective way to punish China, but we have only ended up hurting ourselves the most.
As our nation slowly returns to normalcy, we must do everything in our power to continue the momentum we are building. This includes repealing tariffs on imported Chinese goods and ending the trade war. These tariffs are hurting business owners like myself, and when you hurt small business owners, you inevitably risk hurting the industrious people we employ and the communities we serve. Repealing these tariffs alone might not change the direction of our entire economy, but it would still be a much needed and welcome step in the right direction.
owner of Grand Springs Distribution in Alton