US publisher frets over impact of proposed China tariffs on children's books
Daniel Reynolds, CEO of Workman Publishing, handed out several copies of his 10-page testimony at a public hearing about proposed additional tariffs on Chinese goods, with the majority of the pages illustrating colored books which he said are predominately printed in China.
Chew-proof, water-proof, tear-proof and non-toxic books for babies are among those that could be impacted by the US administration's threatened 25 percent tariff hike on US$300 billion of additional Chinese products, Reynolds told a group of officials at the hearing held inside the US International Trade Commission Building on Tuesday.
"What I most worry about, what keeps me up at night and brings me here today, is the impact that these proposed tariffs could have on children's books in particular," Reynolds said in his emotional testimony.
Children's books must be "appealing enough, entertaining enough, and exciting enough" to make kids choose a book instead of a screen in a world full of electronics and the distractions of apps, video games and social media, Reynolds said.
"So much of this would not be possible without printing in China," he said. With the kind of equipment, technology, and training of skilled labor, Chinese printers, in partnership with US publishers, manage to bring "innovative and high-quality products that would not have been possible otherwise" to market at affordable prices.
"There is no other viable alternative," Reynolds said. "Any shift to alternative sources, if they're even available, will almost certainly bring a decline in quality."
Reynolds' remarks were echoed by Jamie Fiocco, president of American Booksellers Association, who also testified during the second day of a seven-day hearing held by the Office of the US Trade Representative.
Fiocco, who represents 2,500 independent bricks and mortar booksellers, told Xinhua after her testimony that there has been a trend for printers in China to do four-color printing, a method used to print full-color images, "very well cheaply and quickly."
"The best place and the cheapest place and the fastest place tends to be China," Fiocco said, adding that printers in the United States are better suited to print two color, black and white products.
M. Luisa Simpson, vice president for global policy at the Association of American Publishers, also noted that the capacity of US printers has become extremely limited since the 1980s, when the industry began moving out of the country.
If the tariffs are imposed, Reynolds said, publishers will certainly need to raise prices, because publishing, with its small margins, is an extremely "price-sensitive" industry. Increased retail prices will then lead to a decline in book sales.
"There will be fewer books available to American kids," he said. "Lower-income families will be hit the hardest, but the impact will be felt across society."
"It's a scary prospect," Fiocco said.