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Sunday, December 09, 2018  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Tariffs costing Washington consumers and exporters, according to anti-tariff campaign

FILE - (S-R / Cherry growers have lost an estimated $80 million in sales this year due to  trade disputes.)
FILE - (S-R / Cherry growers have lost an estimated $80 million in sales this year due to trade disputes.)

Washington consumers have paid an estimated $100 million more for imported goods since the Trump administration increased tariffs on some products coming into the United States.

Washington farmers and other businesses that export their goods have seen a drop in demand as other countries retaliated with new or higher tariffs of their own on American products. In all, those new or higher tariffs totaled about $103 million more in 2018 than what Washington products faced a year ago, according to statistics compiled for a campaign called Tariffs Hurt the Heartland.

The campaign released its figures at a town hall this week in Seattle, one of a series of events where farmers, shippers, manufacturers and others explained how they are affected by the new tariffs. The campaign is backed by more than 150 of the nation’s largest trade organizations, according to a news release from Tariffs Hurt the Heartland.

“We’re seeing the impacts now,” said Lori Otto Punke, president of the Washington Council on International Trade. “They’re hitting sort of broadly.”

Higher prices for Washington exports means fewer buyers overseas, she said. The cherry growers have lost an estimated $80 million in sales and apple growers an estimated $130 million in sales as China put retaliatory tariffs on American fruit and the oversupply drove other prices down elsewhere

Statistics compiled by the Tariffs Hurt campaign estimate that the value of Washington products not subject to tariffs increased about 22 percent in September compared to the same month in 2017. But the value of goods subject to tariffs on steel, aluminum or the retaliatory Chinese tariffs declined by 28 percent.

About 25 percent of all products being shipped out of Washington ports are subject to the tariffs, Punke said.

The administration is offering up to $12 billion in assistance to farmers whose markets have been hurt by tariffs, although the majority of direct payments go primarily to soybean producers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture will also purchase some commodities hit by retaliatory tariffs and provide them to emergency food and child nutrition programs.

But farmers at the town hall said the aid is temporary and doesn’t help them make plans for what to plant for next year.

Businesses that rely on farmers to buy their products won’t get federal aid to cover their losses if lower commodity prices or fewer sales hurt farm budgets, Punke said.

“There’s a whole ecosystem around trade,” she said.

One of the main commodities shipped from Washington ports are soybeans, state trade statistics show. But Washington doesn’t grow many soybeans for export; they are mainly brought in from other states to be shipped to China and other countries. The trade assistance that helps soybean farmers won’t help transporters if the shipments decrease.

Consumers might also see higher prices this holiday season for items that are made overseas or constructed in the U.S. from imported parts and pieces. For example, luggage, which is made primarily in China, had an extra 10 percent tariff placed on it by the Trump administration in September, which could increase to 25 percent in 2019 if the trade dispute isn’t settled.

Luggage is on a list of 5,745 items for higher tariffs on goods from China. As prices go up, each business will have to decide “how much they can absorb versus how much the will pass on” to the customer, Punke said.


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