Casualties from the Trump Trade War of 2018 with China are piling up fast.
Workers cover bags of chemicals with a sheet at a port in Zhangjiagang in China's eastern Jiangsu province. China's trade surplus with the United States eased in July, when President Donald Trump imposed stiff tariffs on billions of dollars worth of Chinese goods in a showdown between the world's two biggest economies. (Photo by Johannes EISELE / AFP)
Farmers and small businesses across the United States are suffering under the weight of 25% tariffs on Chinese goods that they need and/or China’s retaliatory tariffs on products they export, but Trump shows no inclination to back down. His administration has compiled a list of $16 billion worth of Chinese products it will hit with a 25% tariff on August 23. Trump is considering a 25% tariff on all auto imports on national security grounds, and tariffs on all Chines imports.
Element Electronics plans to lay off almost all of its 126 workers and close its factory in Winnsboro, S.C., because of new U.S. tariffs on components it imports from China. This is particularly sad, because Element Electronics is one of the last remaining television assembly companies in the United States.
A U.S. cargo ship carrying $20 million worth of soybeans for China tried to get there before China’s soybean tariff took effect on July 6, but arrived 30 minutes too late. The tariff raised the cost of the soybeans to $26 million. The ship drifted about off the Chinese coast for a month while the cargo’s owner, the Louis Dreyfus Co., tried to figure out what to do.
The ship, Peak Pegasus, finally docked in Dalian during the weekend and began unloading its cargo after the Chinese company Sinograin agreed to pay the 25% tariff. As of Tuesday, there were two other cargo ships loaded with American soybeans still waiting off the Chinese coast.
The farmers who grew those soybeans have already seen their prices drop by 20%, said Chris Gibbs, a soybean farmer in Ohio. Even if the tariff were eliminated, Gibbs said in an interview with CNBC that he and other farmers feared that the U.S. would be seen as an unreliable supplier and its foreign customers would go elsewhere for soybeans and other farm products.
For commercial fishermen in Alaska, life is hard and dangerous even in the best of times. China’s new 25% tariff on Pacific Northwest seafood may be more than some of them can bear. The state of Alaska has been working for years to attract Chinese buyers for its seafood. Given that there are plenty of other seafood-exporting countries, Chinese importers probably will just stop buying Alaskan seafood.
“We’d rather be left to our own challenges that we have. We don’t need any more,” Alan Noreide, a fisherman from Seward, Alaska, told Reuters.
The iconic American motorcycle company Harley-Davidson faces a boycott of its products, because it said it would move some production overseas to avoid a tariff imposed by the European Union in response to Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. Trump supports the boycott.
“Many @harleydavidson owners plan to boycott the company if manufacturing moves overseas. Great! Most other companies are coming in our direction, including Harley competitors. A really bad move! U.S. will soon have a level playing field, or better,” Trump said on Twitter.
He said he would try to lure foreign motorcycle manufacturers to the United States to further tighten the screws on Harley-Davidson, which is based in Wisconsin.
In California, where wildfires have destroyed about 1,200 homes this year, U.S. tariffs will add as much as $20,000 to the cost of rebuilding a house, according to the National Association of Homebuilders. In addition to the 25% tariff on imported steel, the U.S. has imposed a 20% tariff on Canadian softwood lumber, which is heavily used in home-building.