About $40 million in Utah beef and pork ends up in Chinese food each year.
That’s food in China, not Panda Express.
The World Trade Center Utah has issued a report on what the effects would be of a protracted trade war with China. President Trump made trade concessions a cornerstone of his campaign, with China as the lead target. Now that he’s followed up with specific proposals for tariffs on Chinese products, China has responded with tariff proposals of their own.
Beef, pork, scrap aluminum and plastics are the Utah products that would be hardest hit if China follows through.
About 20 percent of our beef exports go to China, and the tariffs could cost beef and pork producers dearly. That would be a hard hit for rural Utah, which has missed out on most of the growth powering the Wasatch Front.
Other vulnerable industries are scrap aluminum companies, who sent 40 percent of their exports to China and Hong Kong last year, and plastic product exporters, who did $23 million in business in China.
All told, the trade center estimates about $60 million in Utah business would be lost in a trade war with China. Total exports to China and Hong Kong from Utah are about $850 million annual, so $60 million would be a 7 percent loss.
What’s more, those producers also would see prices for their products drop as the market absorbs the portion that used to go to China. Other tariffs also would restrict new opportunities for Utah companies, the report said.
Of course, it is still a trade war of words at this point. The president famously stakes out drastic positions as a negotiating strategy, and China has responded similarly. Trump doesn’t help himself when he flips and then flops, as he did last week on the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement, but the threats against South Korean steel imports have led to concessions from Seoul.
Ultimately, there always will be a need to negotiate trade rules with other nations, and every nation will make defensive moves to product their industries. We’re still in the posturing stage. When the dust settles, the tariffs may disappear.
But Utah’s recent history shows that we benefit from more trade, not less. If there is a war, we’ll be dodging the crossfire.