Arkansas Reactions to White House Steel Tariffs

ROGERS, Ark. (News release) – The White House announced its intention to implement tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from allies Canada, Mexico and the European Union, invoking national security as justification.

The administration is also placing tariffs on $50 billion of various Chinese goods, citing unfair Chinese trade practices. The tariffs amount to 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum.

Mexico, Canada, EU and China announced they will retaliate against the United States with tariffs of their own. Canada, China and the EU also announced they will address these actions at the World Trade Organization.

The World Trade Center Arkansas and the Arkansas District Export Council surveyed state companies to determine the potential impact of the tariffs earlier this year, after the administration decided to examine the effect of steel and aluminum imports.

“Nearly 90 percent of companies in this survey said that the tariff impact would result in increasing costs and prices, a negative impact on their business or worker layoffs and a loss of business,” said Melvin Torres, director of western hemisphere trade at the World Trade Center Arkansas.

The tariff announcements come days before Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ scheduled trade talks with China and at a critical point in negotiations on the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Secretary Ross and the White House emphasized that moving forward the administration is willing to be flexible and is committed to “good-faith” negotiations.

“Canada and Mexico are key trading partners for Arkansas and our exports to Mexico increased by 24 percent last year,” Torres said. “Overall, exports to NAFTA partners rose by 14 percent in 2017, meaning they receive a third of all our exports.”

Western hemisphere countries receive nearly half of all Arkansas exports and total exports increased by 11 percent in 2017, according to state statistics.

“Last year was an extraordinary year for Arkansas exports to NAFTA countries,” Torres said. 

“Overall, exports to Canada and Mexico have increased by 400 percent and 700 percent respectively since NAFTA was implemented in 1994. This latest data release shows that the Arkansas economy depends substantially on NAFTA exports.”

Nearly 350,000 jobs in Arkansas depend on trade and more than 115,000 of those jobs depend on trade with Canada and Mexico.

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