US consumers: pawns in the US-China trade war

Liza Mayer
July 17, 2018
By
American families and workers would be the clear losers in the US-China trade war, says the NRF
American families and workers would be the clear losers in the US-China trade war, says the NRF Getty Images
Pending US tariffs on $200-billion worth of Chinese imports has opened conversations on who will win or lose in the trade spat. But according to the NRF, American families and workers would be the clear losers.

“The latest list of $200 billion of products to be subject to tariffs against China doubles down on a reckless strategy that will boomerang back to harm US families and workers,” said the National Retail Federation (NRF).

“The threat to the US economy is less about a question of ‘if’ and more about ‘when’ and ‘how bad.’ Tariffs on such a broad scope of products make it inconceivable that American consumers will dodge this tax increase as prices of everyday products will be forced to rise. And the retaliation that will follow will destroy thousands of US jobs and hurt farmers, local businesses and entire communities,” the association said.

The US decision to impose higher tariffs stems from China’s “unfair” and “harmful” industrial practices that restrict trade between the two countries. Under the plan, the US will levy 10-percent tariffs on a lst of imports from China. The list includes a wide range of seafood that goes to China for reprocessing and then imported back into the US for the local market.

Tariffs on seafood

Increasing tariffs has its share of supporters, however. Some US shrimp suppliers believe the tax will help curb oversupply. Some tilapia producers believe the tariffs will make trade with their Chinese counterparts more equitable.

“It’s about time we did something to level the playing field as it were, through the shrimp and tilapia, two of the major seafood coming out from China. Cannery is a government-subsidized industry in China. They keep the prices low to keep competition out,” commented Bill Martin, president and CEO of Virginia-based Blue Ridge Aquaculture.

Martin noted that as a live-tilapia supplier, the tariffs issue has no impact on Blue Ridge Aquaculture, known as the world’s largest producer of indoor-raised tilapia. “But we hope down the line when we start to process fish this will give us a level playing field,” he told Aquaculture North America (ANA).

He is confident the tariffs will not have much of an impact on US tilapia prices. “I would be surprised it if it will be much of an increase. Central America suppliers and Brazil are moving into tilapia in a big way, Chile is moving into it in a big way. I expect that void to be filled very quickly [by them].”

The planned tariffs will be finalized in late August after the public-comment period. Martin is hopeful the trade spat will be short term and a deal will be struck before it will have any impact.

NRF is meanwhile urging the Trump administration to strike a deal with China.

“The administration has been pursuing tariffs now for months and we still don’t know what the endgame is. Now is the time to get back to the negotiating table with China while working through a global coalition that shares our concerns. The way things are shaping up, it may be too late, but we hope the administration changes course before we lose the momentum from tax and regulatory reform and return to an era of high prices, job loss and negative growth in our economy,” the group warned.

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