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American Apparel & Footwear Association CEO on U.S.-China trade under a Biden Presidency

Stephen Lamar, American Apparel & Footwear Association CEO, joined Yahoo Finance to discuss his outlook for U.S.-China trade relations under a Biden Presidency.

Video Transcript

ADAM SHAPIRO: Let's talk about the China trade war. Remember that? Because the new administration is going to inherit that trade war and the 25% tariffs that are still hitting American consumers when you buy clothing and other kinds of things.

Let's talk about it with Stephen Lamar. He is the American Apparel and Footwear Association President and CEO. It's good to have you here, Stephen.


ADAM SHAPIRO: So do you expect anything different with a Biden administration on this trade war?

STEPHEN LAMAR: We think a Biden administration's going to be just-- you know, they're going to be tough on China as well. I would expect that the tariffs that we have in place aren't going to go away anytime soon. It is possible that we won't see new tariffs come on, certainly with the speed and vengeance that we saw them in the past. You know, we think a Biden administration would be probably more process based, more predictable, work with allies a lot more. And we're hoping that they'll be able to recognize that, you know, these global supply chains create a lot of jobs in the United States-- in our industry, 4 million jobs-- and that they also recognize that tariffs are ultimately paid by US consumers, by US workers, and by you and me.

SEANA SMITH: Steve, going off of that, I mean, nothing is really probably going to change between now and the end of the year. Of course, we're in this very important holiday season. How do you see the tariffs impacting holiday sales over the next couple of months?

STEPHEN LAMAR: Well, you know, the tariffs are already built into the price of a product that you buy. So when you are buying product in the United States, you are paying the tariffs that had been levied over the last couple of years. So unfortunately we're already seeing the impact of that.

Holiday is the most important shopping season of the year. We are putting a lot of effort into it. It's longer. It's more online. It's more omnichannel where there's a, you know, better integration between brick and mortar and online activities. And we're really hoping that it will be a good year end to what's been a very challenging year all along.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Some of us are old enough to remember the Duran Duran song "Notorious." You have your own version of the hit, the notorious markets report. And you actually point out that Amazon and Facebook and Instagram are providing platforms for people to sell counterfeit goods. How notoriously bad are those platforms at protecting us from counterfeits?

STEPHEN LAMAR: You know, I'm a Duran Duran fan myself. You know, look, as e-commerce has grown-- and that's been a really wonderful story throughout the year-- unfortunately counterfeiters have grown with it. They are increasingly using these e-commerce platforms to deliver fake goods, you know, right onto your front step, right into your living room.

And we're asking for these technology leaders, social-media platforms, third-party marketplaces to increase their ability to push back. As these counterfeiters have scaled up the threat to American consumers, we want these third-party platforms to scale up their solutions so we can make sure that American consumers don't find these fakes.

You know, we talk about making sure that we're doing safe retailing, wearing masks when you're going to the store. Well, safe retailing also means not encountering fakes when you're shopping online.

SEANA SMITH: Steve, what has the response been from these online retailers, names like Amazon?

STEPHEN LAMAR: Well, we have a lengthy conversation with them. We have a conversation directly with the US government and also with all the third-party marketplaces. We tried to push for as many changes as we possibly can. And, you know, we think one of the things about the e-commerce anticounterfeit world is if you're not running forward as quickly as possible, if you're not constantly upgrading and improving your techniques, you're falling behind because counterfeiters, they're a wily bunch. They're constantly looking for-- looking to exploit weaknesses and take advantage, and one of the things they're taking advantage of is the growth of e-commerce. So we're working to make sure that, you know, as they've increased their threat, we can run faster than them and push back even before they get there.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Want to get back to the China trade war. Do you expect there to be a change in the USTR, someone to replace Lighthizer, or is it going to be, as you said at the start, we're going to still get a very tough stance on China?

STEPHEN LAMAR: Well, typically you see a change, and I would imagine-- look, I'm not in a position to comment on whether Ambassador Lighthizer wants to stay on during a Biden administration. He does have really strong linkages with Democrats. So, you know, he is somebody that has worked across the aisle. And, you know, typically when administrations look to retain somebody, I wouldn't be surprised if they looked at somebody who had experience working with Democrats in that role as well.

But we do expect to see, you know, a lot of faces, both at USTR but at Commerce Department and really throughout the government. And one of the things we'll be doing over the next couple of weeks and months is working with those new officials to make sure they understand, again, that these supply chains create jobs, tariffs are taxes, and when you do trade policies, you have to make sure that they're done in a way that gives companies the ability to respond.

One of the problems that we have right now is we have all these tariffs on China, and a lot of them got put in place very quickly, so people didn't have a chance to respond. Now as they're responding, one of the places they're moving production to is Vietnam, and lo and behold, the Trump administration has been threatening to put more tariffs on Vietnam now. So there's a little bit of, you know, moving from one trouble spot to another trouble spot when it comes to US trade policy, and that's not a very sustainable approach. So something that gives companies the ability to be a lot more predictable, that's how we can create jobs in the United States.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Stephen Lamar is the American Apparel and Footwear Association president and CEO. We look forward to having you come back here on Yahoo Finance Live. Good to see you, Stephen.

STEPHEN LAMAR: You too. Thanks.