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Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke with Walmart’s CFO about sourcing products away from China

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Steven Mnuchin, Treasury secretary, arrives at a hotel in Beijing, China, on Thursday, March 28, 2019.

Gilles Sabrie | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Wednesday that he’s spoken with a top Walmart executive about how retail giant can best position itself and keep prices low amid the growing trade dispute between the U.S. and China.

In response to Utah Democrat Ben McAdams’s question about proposed tariffs and potentially higher prices on items including diapers, infant formula and strollers, Mnuchin said that he spoke about such concerns with Walmart Chief Financial Officer Ben Biggs.

“I can tell you I am monitoring the situation very carefully. I was on phone with the CFO of Walmart, which obviously is one of the biggest sellers of the items that you’ve described to specifically understand from Walmart what things they can source from other areas and what items they can’t,” Mnuchin said from Capitol Hill.

“I would say we haven’t made any decisions yet, but we will be especially sensitive to the consumer items,” Mnuchin added.

Mnuchin later added that he speaks to the Biggs on a “regular basis” and has “spoken to all of the major companies that provide consumer goods” about the issue.

However, when later pressed by Iowa Democrat Cindy Axne if Americans would be paying more out of pocket as a result of the import taxes, Mnuchin said he doesn’t “necessarily agree with that and that’s something we’re monitoring very carefully.”

“There may be a small number of items where the tariff may be passed on,” he told Axne. “If we issue an exception, then there will be no price increase. And again, most of those companies are moving products to other places.”

Retailers across the country have been on edge ever since President Donald Trump reignited trade tensions with China earlier this month. Though tariffs on $200 billion “List 3” Chinese goods increased to 25% from 10% earlier this month, Trump has said he’s mulling slapping the last tranche of imports with tariffs as high as 25%.

That could increase the price importing companies pay on a variety on consumer goods ranging including soccer balls, children’s picture books, and grand pianos. Congressional leaders, as well as Mnuchin, note that whether or not companies pass the higher bill on to consumers remains a priority in the months to come.

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