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Agricultural groups concerned about effects of import tariffs on steel and aluminum

In early March, President Trump announced plans to impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, action that many agriculture and business organizations warned will have negative consequences.

The restrictions are being imposed as a national security measure, according to the administration, which has raised concerns about U.S. reliance on imported steel for defense systems.

In a letter to the president, the groups said remedies to curb steel and aluminum imports included in a report issued by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross are “overly broad and will have a severe detrimental impact on downstream users of steel and aluminum.” The restrictions will lead to lost American jobs and could lead to retaliation, including on agriculture exports, from U.S. trading partners, the organizations cautioned.

The National Pork Producers Council is also concerned about possible administration action — not sanctioned by the World Trade Organization — against China related to technology transfer and intellectual property. Liu He, a top trade adviser to Chinese President Xi Jinping, met in Washington with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and White House economic adviser Gary Cohn to discuss the so-called 301 case and the tariffs on steel and aluminum. China is a major exporter of the products to the United States.

The U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) and the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) are extremely disappointed in the decision because of the risks of retaliation and the precedent set by such a policy have serious potential consequences for agriculture.

“This announcement invites retaliation that we are deeply concerned will hurt American farmers. These tariffs are very likely to accelerate a tit-for-tat approach on trade, putting U.S. agricultural exports in the crosshairs. Already we have seen China discuss tariffs on sorghum. The EU and China have also indicated they will move forward with swift retaliation in the wake of these tariffs,” said Brian Kuehl, Executive Director of Farmers for Free Trade.“Everyone agrees we need to hold our trading partners accountable, but taking unilateral action to raise tariffs carries harmful unintended consequences. The agriculture sector knows from experience that our ag exports are the first to be hit by retaliation. Whether it’s our chickens in retaliation for tariffs on Chinese tires, or U.S. apples and wine exports as a result of a Mexican trucking dispute, historically, agriculture always has the biggest target on its back.”

 

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