Hundreds of representatives from industry associations and businesses are testifying this week before US trade officials in hopes of succeeding where they failed in the past and talk the Trump administration off of the tariff ledge.

At a hearing last month, testimony from which was unable to dissuade the White House from adding US$16 billion worth of Chinese goods to the tariff target list, questions from officials betrayed a bewildering level of ignorance regarding how trade works.

When told by business owners who rely on imports of Chinese-made shipping containers that there are no other practical sources of the essential product, one official asked whether the wide range of industries that use the containers, including the US military, could simply buy used ones that have been discarded in the US. The panelist tried his best to explain how the pace of growth in various industries would make that impossible.

This week, the stakes are much higher, as businesses brace for US$200 billion in Chinese goods to be added to the list. The line of questioning has not changed, judging from an account given by Nicole Vasilaros, senior vice president of government relations for the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

“In addition to sharing concerns about the negative impact of tariffs, our industry and others, were taken aback by the committee’s continuous asking of whether businesses can find alternate suppliers,” Vasilaros told Asia Times.

“Not only is this out of touch with the realities businesses face but it’s unrealistic to expect these businesses to undergo finding new reliable suppliers that meet their quality, supply and pricing needs – something that’s extremely difficult in the first place. Businesses cannot simply flip a switch and find a new supplier, especially when there are so few of them.”

She added that the tariffs will backfire for the boating industry and others.

“The tariffs being enacted against China, the EU, Canada and Mexico are doing the opposite of what they’re intended to do. Instead of protecting American business and workers, they’re resulting in increased costs for materials, parts and components and the destruction of seventy percent of the recreational boating industry’s exports to the EU, Canada and Mexico due to those countries’ retaliatory tariffs.”

In short, the mood at the hearings, Vasilaros said, has not been positive.