SEATTLE - A potential trade war with China, and the impact it could have on Washington State – that was a big topic Monday for hundreds of local leaders at the Washington Council on International Trade (WCIT) summit.
Forty percent of Washington jobs are tied to trade and some of those jobs could be on the line depending on what happens next.
“We’re very concerned about retaliation and we’ve heard a lot about retaliation and what that might mean, particularly for our ag sector,” said Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA District 1) to the crowd at the WCIT Trade Summit on Monday.
A potential trade war with China dominated conversations at the summit at Amazon headquarters Monday.
“Nobody really wins in trade wars,” said Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA District 4).
President Trump announced tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum earlier this month. Then China announced plans to hit the U.S. with tariffs on more than 100 goods, including many that Washington farmers produce.
“Apples, wine, cherries,” Newhouse said.
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Hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of those products from Washington state are exported to China every year.
Newhouse represents a large area of central Washington.
“Some of the concerns in farm country is that food products many times, are used as retaliatory items,” Newhouse said. “There is some concern at least in the short term, it could have some dire consequences.”
And there’s talk of a potential impact to Boeing, whose biggest clients are Chinese customers.
“Thirty-six thousand or so go to work every day in my district at Boeing,” said Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA District 2). He says jobs could be on the line.
“All those people who work at these companies, their jobs are a little bit in danger,” Larsen said. “From a Boeing perspective, there is an alternative for Chinese airline companies - and that alternative is Airbus,” he said.
The CEO of Seattle-based Darigold, Stan Ryan, says it exports billions of pounds of milk products annually, and wants to increase exports to China.
“Does it make you worried about how it could impact opportunities for Darigold in the future?” KIRO7’s Deedee Sun asked Ryan.
“It does worry in general. I agree there are some very legitimate issues that need to be addressed. What we are always afraid of, is unexpected escalation effects,” Ryan said.
But he says he’s waiting to see the outcome – which could be positive.
And Newhouse says that is how he sees the current tumultuous trade situation with China - a long term positive, and a show of U.S. strength that could push China to play ball.
“What I’m seeing now is that opportunities are opening. We can come to a better place than we are today,” Newhouse said.
Others believe more work, and a change in trade direction needs to happen to get positive outcomes for the US ad Washington state.
“This is a 180-degree turn between two of the world’s largest economies in the world,” Larsen said. “We have to get back to having a rational trade policy, and not just think of trade as tariffs.”
The Trump administration has said it’s in negotiations with China to reach an agreement.
© 2018 Cox Media Group.