Thursday, April 05, 2018

As tariffs roil stock and ag markets, Trump aide advises calm; targets include McConnell's tobacco, Ryan's ginseng

As the Trump administration tried to calm markets roiled by the start of a trade war with China, the specifics of new tariffs announced by China became more widely known, and their rural targets became clearer.

"The tariffs on soybeans have grabbed much of the attention because they are America’s biggest single export to China, and will affect a number of rural states that heavily backed Trump in the 2016 presidential election, but many of the other measures will also hit farmers across Red State America," reports Sarah Zheng of Hong Kong's South China Morning Post, which is rated as the most credible news outlet in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.

Zheng notes, "The 25 per cent levies on tobacco and whiskey will hit Kentucky – the heartland of bourbon production and home to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell," who called the tariffs "a slippery slope" and likened the November midterm elections to a hurricane for the Republican Party. “We know the wind is going to be in our face,” he told Kentucky Today. “We don’t know whether it’s going to be a Category 3, 4 or 5.”

Zheng writes, "The impact of China’s latest measures could also drown out the Republicans’ message that their tax cuts are delivering prosperity, which the party is counting on to save their majorities in the House and Senate."

Trump's top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, said in an interview on Fox Business Network that the threat of tariffs was “just the first proposal” to be followed by negotiations. Trump Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said there could be "short-term pain" that would pay off.

Trump's tariffs can't take effect until the end of a legally required comment period. China hasn't said when its long list of tariffs will take effect, giving hope that negotiations can head them off. But some earlier tariffs took effect Monday, including a 15 per cent duty on ginseng, which "will be felt particularly acutely in Wisconsin, which accounts for 85 per cent of US exports of the crop to China" and is the home of House Speaker Paul Ryan. "The majority is grown in the state’s Marathon county, where Trump beat his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton by 47 percentage points in 2016."

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