Talk of re­stric­tions watched closely in trade-busy Mary­land

The Enquire-Gazette - - News - By JOELLE LANG, AUBURN MANN and TROY JEF­FER­SON Cap­i­tal News Ser­vice re­porter Re­becca Rainey

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates in both par­ties are propos­ing changes to in­ter­na­tional trade poli­cies that could have dra­matic im­pacts not only on the United States in gen­eral, but also on busy trade cen­ters like Mary­land.

Repub­li­can Don­ald Trump has pro­posed a 45 per­cent tar­iff on ex­ports to the United States.

More broadly, Trump has lam­basted the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion for mak­ing poor trade deals with China and other na­tions, agree­ments that the New York real es­tate ty­coon in­sist should be scrapped for pacts more fa­vor­able to the United States.

On the Demo­cratic side, Ver­mont Sen. Bernie San­ders has at­tacked for­mer Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton for sup­port­ing nu­mer­ous trade agree­ments that he claims are cost­ing Amer­i­cans jobs and harm­ing the global en­vi­ron­ment.

Trade is a closely-watched is­sue in Mary­land, which held its pres­i­den­tial pri­mary on Tues­day, along with Con­necti­cut, Delaware, Penn­syl­va­nia and Rhode Is­land.

Bal­ti­more is home to the 13th-busiest port in the United States and could feel the im­pacts of more re­stric­tive trade poli­cies, ac­cord­ing to a 2015 Lo­gis­tics Man­age­ment study.

The Port of Bal­ti­more gen­er­ates $2.9 bil­lion in per­sonal in­come, while con­tribut­ing $310 mil­lion in state, county and mu­nic­i­pal tax rev­enue an­nu­ally, ac­cord­ing to the Greater Bal­ti­more Com­mit­tee. The port con­ducts busi­ness with coun­tries on six dif­fer­ent con­ti­nents.

In 2014, Greater Bal­ti­more col- lected $12 bil­lion from ex­ports of goods and ser­vices, ac­cord­ing to the Greater Bal­ti­more Com­mit­tee’s Bal­ti­more Metro Ex­port Mar­ket As­sess­ment of 2015.

The Port of Bal­ti­more di­rectly gen­er­ates 14,600 jobs, as well as 108,000 jobs statewide linked to port ac­tiv­ity, ac­cord­ing to James White, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Mary­land Port Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“With­out a healthy, vi­brant and bustling Port of Bal­ti­more, many of those jobs would be lost,” White wrote in The Daily Record’s 2015 re­port.

Trump uses trade as a prime ex­am­ple of why, in his view, the United States “doesn’t win any more.”

“The 45 per­cent tar­iff is a threat. It was not a tax, it was a threat. It will be a tax if they don’t be­have,” the busi­ness­man ex­plained at a March 10 de­bate.

“Take China as an ex­am­ple. I have many friends, great man­u­fac­tur­ers, they want to go into China. They can’t. China won’t let them,” Trump con­tin­ued. “We talk about free trade. It’s not free trade; it’s stupid trade. China dumps ev­ery­thing that they have over here. No tax, no any­thing.”

In 2014, the most re­cent year data is avail­able, the Port of Bal­ti­more held the record for the fourth year in a row for han­dling more au­tos — a half mil­lion — than any U.S. port. The port added Fiat and Mazda to its client list in 2014.

The Bal­ti­more port is also ranked first for its han­dling of farm equip­ment and ma­chin­ery, im­ported for­est prod­ucts and im­ported ma­chin­ery, ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

Bal­ti­more hosts one of two eastern U.S. ports with a 50-foot deep ship­ping chan­nel and berth that can han­dle some of the world’s largest con­tainer ships.

Fred Ma­son, the pres­i­dent of the Mary­land and District of Columbia AFL-CIO, called Trump’s as­ser­tions non­sen­si­cal and stressed the im­por­tance of free trade.

“Amer­ica needs a strong man­u­fac­tur­ing base to be an equal part­ner in world trade,” Ma­son said. “If we en­ter into trade agree­ment that are so lop­sided un­til they only ben­e­fit one coun­try, as we see with the pro­posed TPP [Trans Pa­cific Part­ner­ship], that’s not fair.”

Mary­land is head­quar­ters to many large com­pa­nies en­gaged in in­ter­na­tional trade, in­clud­ing Un­der Ar­mour and Black & Decker.

Based in Bal­ti­more and de­pen­dent on the port for ex­ports, Un­der Ar­mour saw its sales sky­rocket this past year, but could pos­si­bly feel the pinch of Trump’s trade poli­cies.

The 20-year-old com­pany is worth $500 mil­lion and its cloth­ing prod­ucts are sold in over 60 coun­tries, in­clud­ing China. In­ter­na­tional net rev­enues made up 12 per­cent of to­tal rev­enues for the fourth quar­ter of 2015, ac­cord­ing to the com­pany’s Jan­uary

Un­der Ar­mour did not re­turn phone calls and emails seek­ing com­ment for this story.

If Trump’s trade poli­cies were en­acted, the na­tion would go into a re­ces­sion, ac­cord­ing to a study by Moody An­a­lyt­ics for the Wash­ing­ton Post. The coun­try would lose 4 mil­lion jobs and 3 mil­lion would not be cre­ated, the study said.

San­ders is an avid critic of in­ter­na­tional trade agree­ments like the Trans- Pa­cific Part­ner­ship and the 24 year-old North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment (NAFTA), which es­tab­lished es­sen­tially un­fet­tered trade among the United States, Canada and Mex­ico.

San­ders’ web­site refers to the TPP as “a dis­as­trous trade agree­ment de­signed to pro­tect the in­ter­ests of the largest multi-na­tional cor­po­ra­tions at the ex­pense of work­ers, con­sumers, the en­vi­ron­ment and the foun­da­tions of Amer­i­can democ­racy.”

The Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship is a 12-coun­try free trade agree­ment be­tween the United States, Canada and 10 coun­tries in the Asia Pa­cific re­gion, which was drafted in 2015 and signed on Feb. 9.

Dur­ing a Demo­cratic pri­mary de­bate in New Hamp­shire on Feb. 4, San­ders at­tacked Clin­ton’s stance on free trade, par­tic­u­larly the TPP, and re­ferred to his con­sis­tent op­po­si­tion to any re­cent trade deals.

“I was on the picket line in op­po­si­tion to NAFTA. We heard peo­ple tell us how many jobs would be cre­ated,” said San­ders. “I didn’t be­lieve that for a sec­ond be­cause I un­der­stood what the func­tion of NAFTA, CAFTA [Cen­tral Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment], PNTR [Per­ma­nent Nor­mal Trade Re­la­tions] with China, and the TPP is: it’s to say to Amer­i­can work­ers, hey, you are now com­pet­ing against peo­ple in Viet­nam who make 56 cents an hour min­i­mum wage. This is an area where the sec­re­tary [Clin­ton] and I have dis­agree­ments.”

Clin­ton, who orig­i­nally sup­ported the TPP while serv­ing as sec­re­tary of state dur­ing Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s first term, now is against it.

Dur­ing the same de­bate she ex­plained: “I did hope that the TPP, ne­go­ti­ated by this ad­min­is­tra­tion, I was hold­ing out hope that it would be the kind of trade agree­ment that I was look­ing for. Once I saw the out­come, I op­posed it.”

Clin­ton still is ul­ti­mately for trade at some level. “We have to trade with the rest of the world,” she said. “That’s the way the global econ­omy works.”

J.D. Har­ri­son, se­nior editor of dig­i­tal con­tent for the U.S. Cham­ber of Congress’ on­line fo­rum, Above The Fold, ar­gued that Trump’s plans to tax im­ports from Mex­ico and China would cause se­ri­ous trou­ble for the econ­omy.

“Un­der Trump’s trade plans, we would see higher prices, re­duced spend­ing power, fewer jobs, and a weaker econ­omy, both here at home and abroad, ac­cord­ing to the anal­y­sis,” Har­ri­son said. “Of course, that’s the last thing our coun­try and the global econ­omy need right now.”

Har­ri­son sug­gests that in­stead of im­ple­ment­ing new re­stric­tions, the United States should be open­ing more doors for in­ter­na­tional busi­ness.

“We should be tear­ing down trade bar­ri­ers, not putting up more in place,” he said.

In the United States, trade sup­ports 41 mil­lion jobs and boosts the av­er­age an­nual Amer­i­can house­hold in­come by $13,600, ac­cord­ing to U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce data.

Even so, some vot­ers are in sup­port of Trump’s ideas about trade. At a re­cent rally for Trump in Ber­lin, Md., Kathy Richard­son, a re­tired state worker, said that Amer­ica needs some­one with Trump’s busi­ness ac­u­men.

“We need some­one like him for trade — he’s re­ally good at mak­ing deals with other coun­tries,” Richard­son said. “He stands up for Amer­ica.” CNS con­trib­uted to this re­port.

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