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US-China trade war crushes shipments at Seattle and Tacoma Ports

PortandTerminal.com, May 25, 2019

In 2018 almost all U.S. farm exports to China became subject to stiff tariffs as a result of the tit-for-tat trade war between the two countries. The United States levied tariffs on $250 billion of Chinese exports. China responded by levying their own tariffs on $110 billion of US exports. Tit-for-Tat.

What’s been the result?

As expected, US exports to China are down by a lot and America’s agricultural sector has been hit hard.

At the Northwest Seaport Alliance (NWSA), which comprises the ports of Seattle and Tacoma, exports to China were down 32% in 2018 compared to 2017, and are down 21% in 2019, as of the end of March.

As you can see in the graphic above, soybean exports at NWSA have been hit hardest dropping almost 70% in 2018 vs 2017. Other commodities have also taken it on the chin by the tariff war with dairy exports down 41% year on year as an example.

If we don’t deliver affordably and dependably, our foreign customer will go elsewhere to buy

Peter Friedmann, Executive Director, Agriculture Transportation Coalition

NWSA handled agricultural exports of just under $5 billion in 2017. In 2018, it was just shy of $3.5 billion. Agricultural exports dropped from 224,000 TEU in 2017 to just 169,000 TEU in 2018.

Agricultural exports at NWSA had been growing for five years “until they took a wrong turn” last year, noted Tong Zhu, NWSA’s chief commercial officer. Allowing that a strong dollar contributed to suppressed export levels, she added: “I can’t be convinced that was driven mainly by currency rates.”

European Commission President commenting on the stupidity of trade wars

The U.S. agricultural sector is particularly vulnerable to disruptions in international trading patterns, because, as Peter Friedmann, executive director of the Agriculture Transportation Coalition, explained, “nothing we produce in agriculture or in forest products can’t be sourced somewhere else in the world.” “And if we don’t deliver affordably and dependably,” he added, “our foreign customer will go elsewhere to buy.”

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