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9/23/19
West Coast Ports: Tariff Letter to President Trump

On September 23, 2019, the Port of Portland joined with other major U.S. West Coast ports to send the below letter to President Trump to share concerns regarding current U.S. tariff policies on Chinese imports and the associated retaliation.


Dear President Trump:

As the largest ports on the U.S. West Coast, we are writing to share our concerns that the long-term impacts of the escalating trade conflict between China and the United States will create irredeemable economic harm to employers, workers, residents and international partnerships along the entire coast and throughout the country.

U.S. trade policy impacts not only our core businesses, but also the success of our customers, and the livelihoods of our local communities. Collectively, our trade and logistics operations employ hundreds of thousands of family-wage workers whose jobs rely on dependable trade flows. In addition, the cargo handled at our ports flows to and from every corner of the country – from the Atlantic seaboard through America’s heartland to the West Coast – to support American businesses of every size. In fact, 38 percent of all U.S. exports to China by value go through our six ports alone.

The impacts of the back-and-forth tariffs between the United States and China have hit our exporters particularly hard, and we are hearing deep concern from our customers about their increasing challenges due to rising U.S. tariffs and Chinese retaliation. California is the largest exporter to China of any state in the nation; in 2018, California ports collectively saw a decrease of about 30 percent in exports to China. The impact is even more stark when viewed by specific commodities. Exports to China of wheat – grown across 10 states from the Pacific Northwest to the Midwest and exported via Washington and Oregon ports on the Columbia River – have nearly ceased this year. In California, export declines to China are seen in soybeans (-96.9 percent), grains (-85.5 percent), glass (-86.5 percent) and rubber (-74.9 percent). Similarly, the Northwest Seaport Alliance and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport exports have declined, including potatoes (-16.85 percent), hay (-49.93 percent), skins and hides (-47.89 percent), salmon (-47.71 percent), cherries (-54.56 percent) and fresh crab (-63.34 percent).

The negative impact to these exporters will be long-lasting because they cannot easily find new customers outside of China now that existing ones are being lost. For example, Oregon accounts for nearly all the hazelnuts grown in the United States – half of which are shipped to China; retaliatory tariffs could price Oregon growers out of the market and push Chinese consumers toward Turkish-grown hazelnuts. Washington dairy, California grapes and literally hundreds of other commodities are in similar jeopardy.

Over the past several years, each of our ports individually have submitted several tariff-related comment letters; testified before Congress and state legislatures; spoken with local and national media; and engaged directly with your Administration. Our core message in each of these communications has been the same: we support a balanced trading relationship with our global partners but are deeply concerned that the continued imposition of ever-increasing tariffs leads to higher costs on U.S. businesses and consumers and loss of valuable markets without any long-term strategic benefit.

There are justifiable concerns about how China’s current trade practices are interfering with the success of U.S. exporters, and we appreciate that you are working toward long-term structural reforms in the U.S.-China trade relationship. However, our farmers, ranchers, fishing industry, manufacturers and retailers are already deeply harmed by the tariffs and retaliation to-date, and spreading and increasing the impact will make that problem worse. Instead, we urge you to pursue fair, mutually beneficial trade agreements that open new market access opportunities, create a level playing field for America businesses, and protect our workers and the environment.

We stand committed to working productively with your Administration to increase U.S. global trade competitiveness.

Sincerely,

Eugene Seroka
Executive Director
Port of Los Angeles

Mario Cordero
Executive Director
Port of Long Beach

John Wolfe
Chief Executive Officer
Northwest Seaport Alliance

Stephen P. Metruck
Executive Director
Port of Seattle

Eric Johnson
Executive Director
Port of Tacoma

Danny Wan
Acting Executive Director
Port of Oakland

Curtis Robinhold
Executive Director
Port of Portland

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