Soybeans. Photo: Reuters
Soybeans. Photo: Reuters

Despite US investor exuberance, which is still holding up pricey stock market valuations amid a big injection of economic stimulus in the form of tax cuts, many US industries are terrified about the escalating trade conflict with China.

Small and medium-sized enterprises that rely heavily on importing manufacturing inputs from China, some of which aren’t even produced anywhere else, are already suffering from the tariffs placed on US$50 billion worth of Chinese products. An additional round of tariffs on US$200 billion worth of Chinese goods could be crippling for many niche industries.

But the most high-profile American victims of President Donald Trump’s trade war, farmers, who have tirelessly spent decades building strong relationships with Chinese buyers, are as anxious as anyone. Should their Chinese customers find other worthy sources of the products they need, they might never come back.

As far as China’s vice-agriculture minister, Han Jun, is concerned, they probably won’t.

“Many countries are willing and totally have the capacity to take the market share currently enjoyed by the US,” Han said in an interview with Xinhua on Friday.

“If other countries become reliable suppliers for China, it’s going to be very hard for the US to regain the market,” he added.

“US farmers might lose more than a decade of hard work developing business in China,” he warned.

It will take time to appreciate the final toll of the trade war fully, and the Chinese market for soybeans is not the only market that the US risks losing.

For Alaskan fishermen, the stakes are just as high.

“This isn’t an easily replaced market,” said Frances Leach, executive director of United Fishermen of Alaska, per Reuters. If the tariff war continues, she said, “What’s going to happen is China is just going to stop buying Alaska fish.” Pacific Northwest seafood was just one more in a long list of industries on which China recently slapped 25% tariffs.

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