While the world focuses on China tariffs, officials at the US Commerce Department are said to be referring to this week as “retaliation week,” as responses from targets of the Trump administration’s trade policy take effect.
Canadian tariffs in retaliation for US tariffs on steel and aluminum went into effect on Sunday, hitting a wide range of US consumer and steel products. The second stage of retaliatory tariffs from Mexico were imposed on Thursday, affecting US$3 billion worth of mainly agricultural products.
On Friday, China matched the US move to put import duties on US$34 billion of Chinese products with tariffs of their own.
The Chinese and Mexican responses both included tariffs on pork, an industry that looks to be one of the big losers in the battle.
Some of those who have been forced by the Trump administration to the front lines of the trade war were interviewed this week.
The farm industry has been “asked to be good patriots. We have been. But I don’t want to be the patriot who dies at the end of the war, Ken Maschoff, owner of the largest family-owned pork producer in the US told CNBC. “If we go out of business, it’s tough to look at my kids and the 550 farm families that look us into the eye and our 1,400 employees.”
“We want to compete and be able to sell abroad and make sure our government knocks down trade barriers,” he said. “All we’ve accomplished is getting more trade barriers. We are the casualty and predicted it from day one.”
US agricultural secretary Sonny Purdue told reporters last week that the Trump administration was considering using a Depression-era agency to support farmers and offset some of their losses.
Purdue appealed to farmers to support Trump’s trade policy in an editorial last month.
“But farmers should know this: They have stood with President Trump and his policies, and we will make good on our promise to stand with them as well,” he wrote. “If China does not soon mend its ways, we will quickly begin fulfilling our promise to support producers, who have become casualties of these disputes.”
According to an account from NPR on Thursday, beef ranchers in the northwest are not happy with the trade war, but they still support Trump.
Kent Bacus, who heads trade for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, said, “We’re hopeful that the administration is going to be successful, but we need them to be successful very soon.”