More than 350 marine industry professionals attended the opening event in Washington

As a record more than 350 recreational marine industry professionals opened the 2019 American Boating Congress (ABC) in Washington, DC, yesterday, the trade war between the US and China escalated, the stock market tumbled and confusion about who pays tariffs on imported goods reigned.

“American business and American consumers pay this. This is a tax, that’s all it is,” Nicole Vasilaros, senior VP of government and legal affairs for the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), told IBI during the conference.

Vasilaros was responding to President Trump’s recent Twitter barrage claiming China is paying the tariffs he increased from 10% to 25% late last week. Even Trump’s economic advisor Larry Kudlow, in a televised interview on Sunday, reluctantly admitted that while the importers of Chinese goods pay the tariffs, China will pass through the overall economic effects.

Trade was the focus officially and unofficially for the first day of the annual industry lobbying effort, with several panel discussions and very fluid information updates.

Vasilaros said that while everyone agrees that China is a “bad actor” on trade, the biggest immediate effect is the market uncertainty created.

“If you bring in a product and you now face a 25% tariff, what do you do?” she asked rhetorically. “You might try and eat some of the cost, but most are going to pass it on to the distributor and all the way down to the consumer.”

Vasilaros said the China news came at a time when the industry should be on a high from its successful lobbying effort to have the Canadian government remove 10% retaliatory tariffs on US boats imported to the country, but the celebration was short-lived.

“If this [tariffs on Chinese goods] gets any bigger, as we now expect, I think you’re going to see a lot more Americans start to pay attention.”

The American Boating Congress continues today with attendees moving to Capitol Hill to meet with their local legislators and explaining, among other issues, the exact impact the tariff war is having on their businesses and employees.

The conference runs through Wednesday.