On March 23, Donald Trump pressed Play on his impulsive, destructive tariffs against Chinese steel and aluminum. Yesterday (Monday in China, so kinda-sorta today), the calm, rational Chinese responded predictably with retaliatory tariffs on 128 United States products:
The Customs Tariff Commission of the State Council decided to impose a tariff of 15 percent on 120 items of products including fruits from the US and a tariff of 25 percent on eight items, including pork, from the US, according to a statement posted on Sunday on the Ministry of Finance website.
The commission, headed by former finance minister Xiao Jie, said the tariffs are aimed at safeguarding China’s interests and balancing the losses caused to China by the new US tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.
…Farmers for Free Trade, a non-profit campaign chaired by former Montana Democratic Senator Max Baucus and former Indiana Republican Senator Richard Lugar have run ads on major TV networks warning Trump of the adverse effect of the tariffs on US farmers, many of whom voted for Trump in the 2016 election [Chen Weihua, “China Begins New Tariffs on 128 US Products,” China Daily, updated 2018.04.02].
Items on complete list of tariffed products of interest to South Dakota producers are pork products, which draw a 25% tariff, and modified ethanol, which draws a 15% tariff. Producers aired concerns about these tariffs at China’s first rumble of retaliation:
“The figures proposed at this point are 25 percent, which is extremely detrimental,” Glenn Muller, the South Dakota Pork Producers Association Executive Director said.
Pork was one of China’s first targets for tariffs.
“China is a very large customer of ours, we export 27 percent of the pork that we produce in the United States,” Muller said.
The tariff threatens to hurt not only South Dakota’s hog producers, but processing plants like Smithfield foods in Sioux Falls.
“They employee about 3500 people, the economic impact of the swine industry in this state is phenomenal and it’s going to have tremendous impacts,” Muller said.
…China is the largest purchaser of South Dakota soybeans and a growing market for ethanol.
“South Dakota produces over a billion gallons of ethanol,” Richardson said. “China for instance just passed an ethanol mandate last year to clean their air up” [“China’s Threatened Tariff Would Impact South Dakota Pork Industry,” KSFY, 2018.03.23].
Recall that a Chinese manufacturer bought Smithfield Foods in 2013. Maybe Trump is really thinking like a good Wendell Berry liberal environmentalist, trying to stop the spread of Chinese CAFOs in the United States, and driving American food production and manufacturing back to small-scale local self-sufficiency. Yeah, sure. Trumpists, ready your post-facto excuses. Everyone else, brace for more impacts from the damage Trump is doing to South Dakota, the nation, and the world.