How the tariff fight could hurt Washington state

click to enlarge Idaho Gov. Butch Otter - YOUNG KWAK
Young Kwak
Idaho Gov. Butch Otter

It appears the United States and China could be headed into a trade war and Washington cherries, apples and other products could be caught in the crossfire if the two don't work things out soon.

After President Trump announced NEW TARIFFS in March on steel and aluminum imports, which China argues violates World Trade Organization rules, China announced $3 billion in tariffs on a range of U.S. products, including cherries, alcohol, steel and more than 100 others.

And things could escalate: Trump has also announced bigger plans for tariffs on up to $60 billion of Chinese products, saying they are needed to ensure trade between the countries is more equally taxed.

Last year, China was the largest importer of Washington cherries and the fifth largest destination for Washington apples, according to the Northwest Horticultural Council. The new tariffs include a 15 percent tax on most of the Washington agricultural products impacted, from cherries to wine.

"We hope they figure it out before our season starts," says Mark Powers, president of the horticultural council. "For cherries we need an answer sooner than later."

The apple shipping season is wrapping up, Powers says, so it's not clear if many shipments already on the water will be affected by the new fees, which took effect April 2, but 15 percent could make a significant impact with cherries if the tariffs are still in place this summer.

"We don't want to lose any market," Powers says. "And we don't want a 15 percent cost increase. That will impact either prices to consumers or returns to growers."

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About The Author

Samantha Wohlfeil covers the environment, rural communities and cultural issues for the Inlander. Since joining the paper in 2017, she's reported how the weeks after getting out of prison can be deadly, how some terminally ill Eastern Washington patients have struggled to access lethal medication, and other sensitive...