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Tariffs Put Jobs on the Line in Trade-Dependent Washington State

A trade war could hurt the ports in Washington, which are dependent both on imports and exports. (James Brooks/Flickr)
A trade war could hurt the ports in Washington, which are dependent both on imports and exports. (James Brooks/Flickr)
March 9, 2018

SEATTLE – President Donald Trump's tariff announcement has raised fears of trade wars that could hurt Washington state's economy.

With as many as 40 percent of jobs in the Evergreen State dependent on foreign trade, worries abound that a backlash could come in the form of retaliatory tariffs on goods and products made here. Washington ranks first in exports per capita and Boeing, one of the state's largest companies, sells 80 percent of its jets overseas.

But Debra Glassman, faculty director of the Global Business Center at the University of Washington, says it isn't only the aerospace industry that will feel the pain. Farmers rely on trade too.

"If you look at the large agricultural sector in eastern Washington, for example, most of those agricultural industries are dependent on trade,” says Glassman. “They export quite a lot."

On Thursday, Trump agreed to a more targeted approach, saying the tariffs wouldn't apply to Canada or Mexico for now. But his order placing a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum imports goes into effect in two weeks.

The president says the tariffs will boost American workers and help rebuild the country's steel and aluminum industries.

Glassman warns that a trade war would hurt businesses of all sizes, as well as the state's ports, which depend both on imports and exports. She adds, while no trade agreement is perfect, the current trade structure was built through deals made over decades.

"Those multi-country agreements are much more effective in promoting trade and making trade fairer than unilateral tariffs applied to trading partners in specific industries," she says.

She predicts consumers will also feel the pain from rising tariffs, through higher prices on goods.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA