Study: Oklahoma exports worth $208M at risk due to tariffs


As the United States inches closer and closer to a full-fledged trade war, concern grows over what that means for businesses and industries across the country.

A new study shows the impacts could be significant.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce released its findings for each individual state following retaliatory tariffs imposed by Canada, China, the European Union and Mexico. According to the Chamber, $208 million worth of exports is at risk due to the tariffs.

"It’s unfortunate because there are ways to resolve trade disputes. Tariffs have been shown historically never to work,” said Fred Morgan, President of the State Chamber of Oklahoma. "It could mean the loss of jobs. I think there are approximately 400,000 jobs that are tied to manufacture or sale of goods to foreign countries in Oklahoma. Obviously those jobs could be impacted by a trade war.”

The study shows a number of Oklahoma products are at risk. The manufacturing sector will see the fallout from the tariffs, according to Morgan. Agriculture will also take a hit.

But pork seems to be especially at risk. The Chamber study shows $29 million in pork product exports to China and $28 million to Mexico could be up in the air due to the ongoing trade dispute. That's bad news for Oklahoma where, according to the Oklahoma Pork Counsel, swine ranks as the fourth most exported product out of the state.

"Pork is a shining star when it comes to trade. Agriculture in general is good, but pork is a shining star," says Oklahoma Pork Council Executive Director Roy Lee Lindsey. "There’s a reason pork keeps coming up on all these retaliation lists, and it’s because, number one, we’re really good at selling it around the world. And, number two, we’re huge advocates for trade in Congress."

Lindsey says China, Mexico and Canada rank as some of the industry's biggest trading partners.

But while fears over a trade war are high, that hasn't done anything to ease tensions between the nations. The Trump administration on Tuesday announced plans to hit China with more tariffs, this time on another $200 billion worth of Chinese imports. China has already vowed to retaliate to any more U.S. taxes meaning it appears conflict is here to stay.

"I don’t see a fast resolution," said Morgan. "I do think that cooler heads will prevail at some point. It is also possible that Congress will take back the power from the president to slap tariffs on these goods.”

Congress has moved in that direction. On Wednesday, the Senate overwhelmingly passed a non-binding resolution calling on President Donald Trump to get congressional approval before using national security as a reason for imposing tariffs on other nations. But the resolution carries little actual weight, simply sending a message to the White House expressing the Senate's frustration.

In the meantime, local industry may have to simply ride out the conflict. Officials say the best route is to continue to put pressure on Washington.

"Your voice needs to be heard. It can be heard here at the state chamber, it can be heard with their congressional representatives, it can be heard at the administration itself,” said Morgan. "[Let] the President know this is not good for Oklahoma, this is not good for Oklahoma businesses and ultimately not good for Oklahoma consumers.”

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