US Agricultural Interests Want Trump to Back Off Trade War
Food and agricultural groups are urging the Trump administration to ease up on steel and aluminum tariffs, arguing that they will cause a backlash against their industries by alienating the biggest purchasers of the nation’s food exports.
That concern became a reality last week, when China imposed a 25-percent tariff on United States soybean exports, along with over 100 other products.
It all started when President Donald Trump imposed tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum a couple of weeks ago, on the grounds of national security. Trump also acknowledged that the tariffs were also meant to coax concessions from Canada and Mexico during the renegotiations for the North American Free Trade Agreement. Both NAFTA partners have been exempted from the tariffs, but Trump signaled that the tariffs could be imposed on those two countries as well.
China responded by announcing retaliatory tariffs targeting $3 billion in U.S. goods, including fruit and pork. The president then announced tariffs on China as punishment for violating US intellectual property law. The most recent development came when China announced new tariffs on $50 billion worth of US exports.
China, Canada, and Mexico are among the top buyers of US agricultural exports, and that’s what has agricultural interests worried, and for good reason.
“China’s threats of retaliation in response to President Trump’s tariffs are no longer hypothetical,” said Casey Guernsey, an official of Americans for Farmers & Families (AFF). “Moving forward with more far-reaching tariffs that result in retaliation and threaten to dismantle critical trade deals will have a crushing effect on America’s ability to create jobs here at home and feed families around the world.”
The growing US trade policy isolationism has prompted US trade partners to look elsewhere for trade. The eleven remaining members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership recently concluded a deal to continue that trade pack without US participation. Mexico, a prime customer for US corn, increase its purchases from Brazil in 2017 by factor of ten, according to Reuters.
“America’s food and agriculture industries are now taking a direct hit,” said Guernsey, “and our farmers and families will pay the price.
“China has been a leading export market for US agricultural products such as soybeans,” he added. “But now that source of customers, revenue and ultimately more American jobs is on the chopping block. We recognize the need to hold China accountable for its unfair trading practices, but that should not be done at the expense of America’s food and agriculture industries, the millions of workers they employ here at home and the millions of families they feed around the world.”