Pedestrians pass in front of a Levi Strauss & Co. store in the SoHo neighborhood of New York, U.S. (Photographer: Sarah Blesener/Bloomberg)

Abercrombie, Levi Strauss Lament Apparel Tariff Threat

(Bloomberg) -- Any trade war that emerges between the U.S. and its allies would have far-reaching consequences for consumers worldwide, according to apparel companies Levi Strauss & Co. and Abercrombie & Fitch Co.

The companies expressed their concern ahead of threatened tit-for-tat tariffs from the European Union, Canada and Mexico on U.S. goods such as jeans, Harley-Davidson motorcycles and bourbon. The EU measures would be a response to U.S. duties on imported metals from the EU, Mexico and Canada starting Friday.

The tariffs are “one more thing to lose sleep on in this industry,” Abercrombie & Fitch Chief Executive Officer Fran Horowitz said in an interview. As tariff threats have heated up, the company has worked to reduce its dependence on China and increase the agility of its supply chain, Chief Operating Officer Joanne Crevoiserat said.

Levi Strauss called for “open markets and free trade where everyone plays by the rules,” the company said in an emailed statement. “Unilateral tariff impositions risk retaliation and destabilizing the global economy, in which case American brands, workers and consumers will ultimately suffer.”

Levi Strauss pledged to work with its industry peers to bring the issue to the attention of U.S. and EU authorities on “how these decisions will impact not just our business but consumers and the millions of people across our supply chain.”

Steps to Retaliate

The EU said it would take immediate steps to retaliate to the U.S. tariffs, while Mexico vowed to impose duties on everything from U.S. flat steel to cheese. Canada’s government announced it will impose tariffs on as much as C$16.6 billion ($12.8 billion) of U.S. steel, aluminum and other products from July 1.

The apparel companies’ comments follow condemnations of tariffs from groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

The tariffs will hit just as Abercrombie’s sales are starting to improve. The teen clothing retailer reported better-than-estimated quarterly results on Friday, saying the apparel industry has been benefiting from rising consumer confidence in the U.S.

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