Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Tariffs stir fear at many U.S. ports, including Milwaukee
Loss of shipping trickles down to trade workers
To understand why the impact of President Donald Trump’s tariffs could be felt throughout the U.S., consider this: From the West Coast to the Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico, at least 10 percent of imports at many ports could be hit by new tariffs if Trump’s proposals take full effect, according to an exclusive analysis of government data by The Associated Press.
Ports and ground terminals in nearly every state handle goods that are now or will likely soon be covered by import tariffs. And port officials fear this could mean a slowdown in shipping that would have ripple effects on truckers and others whose jobs depend on trade.
Since March, the U.S. has applied new tariffs of up to 25 percent on nearly $85 billion worth of steel and aluminum and various Chinese products, mostly goods used in manufacturing.
“Tariffs are working big time,” Trump tweeted recently.
At the same time, his administration is preparing to slap tariffs of up to 25 percent on an additional $200 billion in Chinese imports.
In New Orleans, port officials say a tariff-related drop in shipments is real, not a forecast. Steel imports there have declined more than 25 percent from a year ago, according to the port’s chief commercial officer, Robert Landry.
The port of Milwaukee imports steel from Europe and ships out agricultural products from the Midwest. Steel imports haven’t dropped yet because they are under long-term contracts, said the port director, Adam Schlicht. But there has been “an almost immediate halt” in outbound shipments of corn because of retaliatory duties imposed by the European Union on American products.
Much of the corn, he said, “is just staying in silos. They are filled to the brim.”
Port officials were encouraged by this week’s announcement that the U.S. and Mexico had reached a preliminary agreement to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, hoping it might lead to reduced trade barriers. Canada’s participation in any new deal to replace NAFTA, though, remains a major question mark.
The impact will be felt keenly at West Coast ports like Los Angeles and Long Beach. Here are some of the key findings from the AP analysis:
❚ U.S. tariffs will cover goods that are imported at more than 250 seaports, airports and ground terminals in 48 states.
❚ At 18 of 43 customs districts — including those representing ports around Los Angeles, San Francisco, New Orleans and Houston — at least 10 percent of their total import value could be covered by new tariffs if all Trump’s proposals take effect.
❚ Retaliatory duties by China and other countries cover $27 billion in U.S. exports.
The impact might be greater on truck drivers and warehouse workers. Fewer will be needed, according to Jock O’Connell, an economist in California who studies trade.