By Dianne Feinstein
Originially published in the Los Angeles Daily News.
President Trump in March tweeted that “trade wars are good, and easy to win.” That false confidence offers little comfort to the American workers who are losing their jobs or families paying higher prices for goods because of the president’s failed trade policies.
As a result of the president’s trade war, iconic American companies like Harley-Davidson are moving jobs overseas. Mid Continent Nail Corporation, a large manufacturer in Missouri, was forced to lay off hundreds of workers when it lost half its business because of the president’s tariffs. And many companies have been forced to cut worker hours as customers scale back orders due to rising prices.
Few places are feeling the harmful effects of the president’s trade policies more than California. Our state exports more than $170 billion worth of goods each year, supporting nearly 700,000 jobs. Many of those jobs are now at risk.
California’s agriculture communities are on the front lines of his trade war. Our farmers export almost $20 billion worth of products each year. Given the strength of our agricultural exports, it’s not surprising that California is bearing the brunt of our trading partners’ retaliatory tariffs.
Retaliatory tariffs put in place by China, the third-largest market for California agricultural exports, have been particularly devastating. For instance, the more than $1 billion we export in pistachios and almonds to China now face 45 percent and 50 percent tariffs respectively. How can our nut growers compete with markups that steep?
The top market for California agricultural products, the European Union, has also placed tariffs on U.S. agricultural exports. Our European allies and Japan also signed a massive new trade deal, which will further disadvantage American farmers. Other nations are moving ahead while President Trump’s trade policies leave our farmers in the dust.
And it’s not just agriculture. California manufacturers are also being harmed. Many of the president’s tariffs are on materials or parts that go into a finished product. For manufacturers based in the United States, the increased costs are making it harder for them to compete with companies based in other countries.
Oakdale’s Accu-Swiss, a company that uses domestic steel, is being squeezed as tariffs make domestic steel more expensive and harder to find. The company has been forced to trim costs everywhere it can, even running its machines in the dark to save on electricity costs.
Meanwhile, efforts by our trading partners to target products with symbolic political implications mean California institutions like Levi Strauss are on the list for retaliatory tariffs. California manufacturers are being hit at both ends: higher costs at home and fewer customers abroad.
The damage doesn’t stop there. At the same time that President Trump’s policies are putting American jobs at risk, they’re also hitting consumers’ wallets. His tariffs drove the price of steel up 40 percent since the beginning of the year. As a result, the prices of everything from new cars to cans of food are increasing, making it harder for families to make ends meet.
It’s no wonder that employers and workers from virtually every sector are calling on President Trump to end this unnecessary trade war. Unfortunately, those pleas are falling on deaf ears.
That’s because after you look past his bluster and bravado, it’s clear the president still doesn’t have a plan to resolve the multi-front trade war he started with our largest trading partners, including many of our closest allies.
Rather than admit his mistakes, he’s doubling down on the same failed policies that got us into this mess. Just recently, the Trump administration announced an additional $200 billion in tariffs on Chinese imports. China is expected to announce a slew of retaliatory measures in response.
The longer this trade war goes on, the more harm it will cause. The United States has invested millions and engaged in painstaking trade negotiations to open markets around the world. Thanks to President Trump, American goods are now being shut out of those markets.
It’s time for the president to stop the combative posturing and work to find real solutions to our trade disputes. Recently, by a bipartisan vote of 88-11, the Senate rebuked the president by voting to restore Congress’ role in trade policy. Though largely symbolic, this sent President Trump a clear message to end his trade war.
The president must realize that the United States relies on our trading partners just as much as they rely on us. We should be focused on opening up new markets for our goods. This can’t be done through insults, threats or poorly-thought-out trade actions.
If President Trump truly wants to help American workers and families, he’ll listen to their pleas and end his trade war immediately.
U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein is a Democrat representing California.