November 12, 2019 5:15 PM, EST

Trade Battles With China Could Damage 1.47 Million US Jobs, Says Study

Port of Los AngelesTrucks wait to be loaded at the Port of Los Angeles. (Nick Ut/AP)

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President Donald Trump’s long-running trade battle with China is putting nearly 1.47 million U.S. jobs at risk, according to a new study commissioned by the Port of Los Angeles and written by global consulting firm BST Associates. The report was unveiled in Washington at a news conference at the National Retail Federation on Nov. 12.

In dollar figures, the numbers are substantial. The tariffs against China, and the ones imposed by Beijing against the U.S., threaten more than $186 billion in U.S. economic activity, and the cost to manufacturers and consumers are equal to as much as $35 billion in added costs of products.

Gene Seroka


“Very simply put, less cargo means less jobs,” said Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka, who leads the nation’s busiest cargo port. “I know some reform has to take place. But going about this on our own, simply giving sales leads to other countries to take our business is wrong.”

The report looked only at cargo that enters or leaves the Port of Los Angeles and nearby Port of Long Beach, and then is shipped both locally and nationally by truck and rail.

Panelists at the news conference said the likely impact of the long-running tariffs on the American economy probably is much greater because while the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports do 42% of the waterborne trade with Asia, other facilities across the country also are ramping up their trade with China and other Asian nations.

Of the 1.47 million jobs impacted by the tariffs, 1.26 million are jeopardized by the U.S.-imposed tariffs, while the remaining 207,000 were threatened by retaliatory tariffs.

The BST Associates report found that nearly 53% of all items going through the two ports were impacted by the tariffs.

Seroka said he is concerned about the tariffs because his facility in October saw the biggest drop in cargo volumes in more than 20 years. Ship calls are down 25%, and volume is off more than 19% compared with October 2018.

“Every urban, suburban and rural community across our nation benefits from imports and exports moving through the San Pedro Bay ports, and ongoing tariffs are putting those benefits at risk,” Seroka said. “Some regions and industries are already feeling the pain, and the damage to jobs, income and tax revenue could be crippling down the road.”

The report further broke down the impact of the trade war in terms of the 10 most impacted congressional districts. New York’s 12th district in Manhattan ranks No. 1 in terms of its exposure to tariffs. The 12th district is home to Trump Tower, as well as 503 companies impacted by the tariffs. Dozens of those businesses have their headquarters in New York City, and the value of the trade with other nations is $2.4 billion annually.

The states at most risk for the tariffs include California, Texas, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Arizona, Indiana, Missouri, Colorado, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Several of those states have significant agricultural industries, and the study found the trade dispute and resulting tariffs have damaged the agriculture sector in particular.

“If cargo traffic out of the San Pedro Bay ports is declining because of tariffs, it means American farmers and ranchers are hurting,” said Angela Hofmann, co-executive director of Farmers for Free Trade. “When tariffs cut off access to markets that are hungry for American livestock, grains, vegetables and other farm products, the economic pain reverberates from ports, to farms to Main Street businesses.”

Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping are facing a Dec. 15 deadline that would impose another round of tariffs on consumers and businesses by increasing the cost of popular items such as cellphones, laptops, tablets, toys and clothing. Trump has insisted the nations are close to signing an interim trade deal that could roll back some of the tariffs that had been imposed on each other’s products, which would be a big step toward defusing the dispute.

However, at a Nov. 12 speech at the Economic Club of New York, Trump warned China he wants a deal soon. “If we don’t make a deal, we’re going to substantially raise the tariffs,” he said.

It was expected the U.S. and China would sign an agreement the week of Nov. 12 on the first stage of the trade agreement at a summit in Chile. But that meeting was postponed because of political unrest in that country, and the face-to-face meeting between the leaders has not been rescheduled.

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