Tariff ripple effects worry experts

Updated 2018-04-19 09:16:04 China Daily

China's new tariffs on U.S. agricultural products will have implications for urban residents on the West Coast, not just rural communities, experts say.

The agricultural industry on the West Coast will take a hit from China's retaliatory tariffs which went into effect on April 2 and target primarily agricultural products, mostly produced in California.

"I think Trump never understood agriculture, and never understood how important it (export) was to agriculture," said Bill Perry, a Seattle-based international trade lawyer.

The billion worth of tariffs from China will hit farmers in Washington State hard, but despite the direct impact, there's also an indirect impact valued at billion to billion, said Perry, who has represented Chinese producers and U.S. importers for more than 30 years.

Although Washington State doesn't produce soybeans, the ports of Seattle and Tacoma are major gateways for the billion in soybean exports, he explained.

West Coast ports, including Oakland and the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, are significant for agricultural products, such as nuts, fruit and meats, and are worth billions of dollars a year.

Experts said the reduction of trade activity will cause dock workers, truck drivers and other workers along the chain to take a hit, too.

"Agricultural trade creates jobs and opportunities throughout our state. It's not just farmers and rural businesses that will suffer if farm exports diminish," Jamie Johansson, president of the California Farm Bureau Federation (CFBF), said in the organization's weekly newspaper AgAlert on April 11.

"Many people in our urban centers work in marketing and export jobs tied to agriculture. This situation will affect urban and rural Californians alike," he said.

U.S. exporters of nuts, wine and fruit have been renegotiating contracts with their buyers in China, while some products originally destined for China may be redirected to other locations, according to CFBF.

"All exports are local. Through my research I found that American local businesses are getting much better over the past 10 years at entering the Chinese market," said Benjamin Leffel, Kugelman research fellow at the Center for Citizen Peacebuilding at UC-Irvine.

"The Trump administration could accomplish a lot with China-U.S. relations at the local level in particular," Leffel said. "Punishing China with tariffs is not a good start. As Trump continues with the tariffs, it's causing governors and mayors to fend for themselves."

Perry called the situation right now very serious and he said he expects more ups and downs in the next few months.

"My hope is for intense negotiations between the U.S. and China. Almost every case I know of was settled by agreement," he said.

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