US ports voice trade war “chaos” concerns

Port of Seattle The Port of Seattle (pictured) is one of six US west coast ports that are concerned about the economic impact of the US-China trade war. Image: Port of Seattle

A group of US ports have sent a letter to President Donald Trump sharing their concerns that the US-China trade war “will create irredeemable economic harm”.

The six largest West Coast ports — Port of Long Beach, Port of Los Angeles, Port of Oakland, Port of Portland, Port of Seattle and Port of Tacoma, said that the trade conflict between China and the US, ongoing since 2018 and being fuelled by tit-for-tat tariffs, will have long terms negative impacts on employers, workers, residents and international partnerships along the West Coast and throughout the US.

"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," said the letter.

“The chaos of the current trade war is one of the most prominent risks ahead,” said Stephanie Bowman, Port of Seattle commission president and co-chair of The Northwest Seaport Alliance, a marine cargo operating partnership of the ports of Seattle and Tacoma. She stated: “Exporters are losing market opportunities through increased tariffs on sales to China. Changing global trade routes could mean fewer West Coast imports as supply chains shift away from China.”

Fewer work opportunities

“A long trade war could mean more shipping time for western producers and fewer work opportunities for West Coast workers,” said Clare Petrich, Port of Tacoma commission president and co-chair of The Northwest Seaport Alliance.

The letter pointed out that 38% of all US exports to China by value go through the six ports. It also highlighted the latest impacts related to back-and-forth tariffs between the US and China.

California is the largest exporter to China of any state in the nation; in 2018, California ports collectively saw a decrease of about 30% in exports to China.

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.

Similarly, The Northwest Seaport Alliance and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport exports have declined, including potatoes (-16.85%), hay (-49.93%), skins and hides (-47.89%), salmon (-47.71%), cherries (-54.56%) and fresh crab (-63.34%).

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