U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Congress on Wednesday (May 22) that he spoke with Walmart Chief Financial Officer Brett Biggs about the effects of the U.S.-China trade war on prices, according to a report by CNBC.
They spoke about how Walmart can best position itself to keep prices down during the escalating tensions between the two countries. The tariffs could raise prices on diapers, strollers, baby-related items and other products that are commonly sold at Walmart.
“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 at the House Financial Services Committee hearing. “I would say we haven’t made any decisions yet, but we will be especially sensitive to the consumer items.”
When he spoke about the issue on the company’s first-quarter earnings call on Thursday (May 16), Biggs said Walmart was watching the situation.
“In regard to tariffs, we continue to monitor the situation. Our goal is always to be the low price leader, and we’ll continue to actively manage pricing and margins with our customers and shareholders in mind,” Biggs said. “We’re going to continue to do everything we can to keep prices low, that’s who we are. However, increased tariffs will lead to increased prices, we believe, for our customers.”
Greg Foran, Walmart’s chief executive on the American side, said the company is working to resolve the issue for consumers. “Merchants are managing costs and retails on an item-by-item basis. We are working closely with domestic and international suppliers to drive higher efficiency and reduce costs.”
When asked by the Committee whether he thought Americans would have to pay more as a result of the tariffs, Mnuchin said he didn’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 continued. “If we issue an exception, then there will be no price increase. And again, most of those companies are moving products to other places.”