Utah’s economy is ‘threatened’ by retaliatory tariffs sought by Canada, Mexico and the EU, trade official warns

Photo by Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune Above, Fuji and Granny Smith apples. Southridge Farms for a story on places to purchase Utah-made products from people who make them.

As key U.S. trading partners move to impose their own tariffs in reaction to President Donald Trump’s new duties on steel and aluminum, a top Utah trade official is warning of widespread damage to the state’s economy.

Canada, Mexico and the European Union bought half of all Utah’s exports in 2017, said Derek Miller, president and CEO of World Trade Center Utah.

Their retaliatory tariffs now threaten to fall hardest on Utah’s manufacturing exports of iron and steel, worth $128 million last year, Miller said. Nearly 80 percent of the state’s exports of those commodities currently go to those three trading partners, he noted.

“With the steel and aluminum tariffs now in effect, they are beginning to tarnish the relationships we have with some of our top trade allies,” Miller warned Thursday in a written statement. “In addition to the strain placed on Utah companies, consumers will also feel the consequences of the retaliation as they begin paying higher prices for goods.”

Trump, meanwhile, has played down the potential harms of a trade war with these leading partners, whom he accuses of imposing unfair trade barriers to U.S. products for years.

“Totally unfair to our farmers, workers & companies,” Trump tweeted June 7.

But in addition to iron and steel, tariffs sought to counter Trump’s June 1 announcement of import taxes on steel and aluminum will also hamper Utah’s exports of electrical equipment, soaps, cleaning compounds, general machinery and plastics, Miller said.

Utah’s farm and dairy products are expected to take a hit as well, including exports of pork products, cheese and other food products.

Utah Agriculture and Food Commissioner LuAnn Adams has said that Mexico’s new tariffs on pork bellies, blueberries, apple, grapes and some cheese are of particular concern to the state’s food producers. Mexico is the world’s third largest importer of Utah’s farm goods.

“For the benefit of Utah agriculture, I hope this trade dispute is resolved quickly,” Adams said shortly after Mexico imposed its new duties.

The 28-nation European Union, meanwhile, is also expected to place tariffs of between 10 percent and 25 percent on essential oils and makeup products. Utah is home to doTerra and Young Living, two of the world’s largest makers of essential oils.

Ripple effects from those new trade barriers are expected to extend beyond export markets, Miller said, in part by lowering demand for U.S. goods and pushing down domestic commodity prices.

“Tariffs on agriculture and dairy products,” he said, “are especially harmful to Utah’s rural economy.”

Utah’s senators, Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee, are among the critics of the president’s tariffs. And Lee has supported legislation requiring congressional approval for any new tariffs.

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