From aerospace to hog farms, study finds trade war with China would cost Utah businesses $60 million in exports

(Francisco Kjolseth | Salt Lake Tribune file photo) In a new analysis by World Trade Center Utah, President and CEO Derek Miller said a trade war with China "will have diverse and harmful effects on Utah’s economy," threatening more than $60 million in exports by Utah businesses.

A diverse group of Utah businesses will take financial hits if President Donald Trump’s tariffs compel China to take retaliatory measures, according to a World Trade Center Utah analysis released Wednesday.

Utah’s aerospace industry, aluminum recycling companies, beef and hog ranchers, plastics manufacturers and transportation-equipment suppliers, wheat farmers and orchard owners are all among the big losers if a trade war flares up between the U.S. and China, the nonprofit trade promotion agency said.

Total projected losses: $60 million.

That’s out of $850 million in value-added goods that Utah companies shipped to China and Hong Kong in 2017, said World Trade Center Utah President and CEO Derek Miller, soon to become head of the Salt Lake Chamber.

“China is a large export market for Utah and retaliatory tariffs targeted to Utah products will have a direct and negative impact on statewide industries,” he said.

The analysis cited a few examples:

• Chinese tariffs on aluminum waste and scrap threaten $26 million in business for Utah recycling companies, which shipped 40 percent of their product to China and Hong Kong last year.

• All $19 million worth of Utah beef exported to China last year may be cut off, about 20 percent of the state total.

• Nearly $20 million in Utah pork products and $300,000 in fruit exports would be threatened.

• About half of the $23 million worth of plastic products that Utah companies exported to China last year would be terminated. That would affect 7 percent of the state’s plastics-export market, which amounted to $162 million in 2017.

• Wheat farmers would see prices fall domestically when the market is flooded with $350 million worth of cereal grain that is no longer being sent to China.

A tariff dispute also would restrict opportunities to make inroads in sectors of the Chinese economy just opening up, Miller said.

“New duties on passenger vehicles and smaller, single-aisle planes threaten U. S. automotive and aerospace manufacturers’ ability to penetrate emerging Chinese markets,” Miller said. “Aerospace manufacturing is one of Utah’s largest export clusters and includes high-value suppliers of composites and other specialized materials for U.S. aerospace manufacturers.

“Tariffs imposed on U.S. manufacturers threaten their competitive position on one of the world’s fastest-growing air travel markets, restricting opportunities for Utah companies that supply those manufacturers,” he added. “The consequences of the retaliation will be felt across the state.”