A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

U.S. Chamber launching campaign against tariffs; NKY Chamber, Toyota say jobs threatened

By Judy Clabes

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is launching a campaign against President Donald Trump’s tariffs — and the possibility of an emerging all-out trade war.

The national Chamber says that $1.5 billion in Kentucky exports are threatened and that 539,000 Kentucky jobs are supported by global trade.

When the U.S. imposed new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, Canada responded with $12.6 billion in tariffs against American-made products. Additional tariffs on autos and auto parts have pushed the envelope toward a global trade war.

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The Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, meanwhile, has been reaching out to legislators on the tariff/trade issue for some time. It was a major part of the discussions in its recent “fly-in” to D.C. for meetings with the area’s legislative delegation.

“We’re deeply concerned about the tariffs,” said Brent Cooper, president and CEO of the local chamber. “As the issue escalates we are hearing grim stories from our manufacturing and logistics sectors. They are painting a serious picture of employment as a result of the tariffs.”

Cooper expresses concern that the impact on NKY jobs could be catastrophic. One manufacturer alone is telling him that 600 jobs are on the line.

“We understand there are inequities in trade that need to be addressed,” Cooper said. “But we need to follow other remedies for dealing with those.

“We want to see the tariffs go away — and return to free trade, period.”

Brent Cooper, Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce

All of his membership is concerned, he said, though not all agree on the solution.

“The risk to NKY’s economy is profound,” he said. “For every job lost, there is a domino effect of an additional 1.9 jobs impacted.”

More barriers to business are not the answer, Cooper said.

“This shouldn’t be a presidential call. Take decisions back into the hands of Congress.”

Northern Kentucky represents 35 percent of manufacturing jobs in Greater Cincinnati and those manufacturers are “being pummeled,” Cooper said. One local manufacturer told Cooper it is losing over $1.5 million every month, and that’s just one example.

“We have been successful in bringing manufacturing jobs to Northern Kentucky,” Cooper said. “We are concerned that these trade issues will get in the way of our continued success.”

Nearly worse than the tariffs themselves is the continued uncertainty in the marketplace, the idea that there is no sound and reliable policy to count on. That is what is causing immediate concerns, Cooper said.

“We need cooler heads to prevail,” he said.

On Friday the U.S. imposed the first duties on $34 billion in Chinese goods and right away the Chinese fired back, accusing the U.S. of violating World Trade Organization rules and starting “the largest trade war in economic history to date,” reported The Washington Post.

China didn’t specify targets but suggested equal levies on American goods which would include staples like soybeans, corn, pork, and poultry, all of which would impact Kentucky.

Toyota Manufacturing in Georgetown

The Progressive Farmer reports that soybeans represent 41 percent of the value of U.S. products on China’s retaliatory tariff list. U.S. soybean exports to China have grown to $14 billion in 2017.

Toyota Motor Co. voiced strong opposition to possible tariffs on imported vehicles and auto parts, in a 15-page report to the U.S. Department of Commerce, singling out Kentucky’s Toyota Motor Manufacturing as an “exemplar” of U.S. manufacturing.

Toyota operations 10 manufacturing plants in the U.S. and said “137,000 Americans support their families working for Toyota and Toyota and Lexus dealerships.”

The statement called a 25 percent tariff on automotive imports as a tax on consumers and said that the Toyota Camry, made in Georgetown and the best-selling car in America, would face $1800 in increased costs.

GM also filed a report to the Department of Commerce objecting to the tariffs.

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See this story on the U.S. Chamber’s website: Workers, Farmers, Families, and Business are All Losers in a Trade War.

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One Comment

  1. James Murphy says:

    In 1890 Secretary of State James Blaine persuaded president Harrison and the Congress to authorize the president to suspend duty-free treatment of imports from countries imposing unequal or unreasonable duties on US exports. In 1891-92 Blaine negotiated ten agreements with Latin American countries to reduce their tariffs. Colombia, Venezuela, and Haiti refused and got tariff penalties.

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