June 25, 2018
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Federal Issues

Trade-driven Washington state braces for impacts of escalating global trade tensions

Trade tensions escalated over the weekend with the president calling on America’s trading partners to remove trade barriers and tariffs or face the consequences. Following the president’s tweets, Chinese President Xi Jinping told a group of American and European executives that Beijing plans to strike back.

The escalating tensions are a concern for trade-driven Washington state where 40 percent of jobs are connected to international trade. The impact is already being felt in Spokane where Dry Fly Distilling is reportedly losing international whiskey sales as a result of new tariffs, The Spokesman-Review reports.

Canada and the European Union imposed 25 percent tariffs on American-made whiskey in retaliation for the presidential administration's decision to put tariffs on steel and aluminum imported from those regions. China also imposed tariffs on whiskey, among other products, as a counter move to new American tariffs.

For Dry Fly, which exports 10 percent of its product, the impact has been immediate. Ontario canceled an order for 2,000 cases of whiskey, and Dry Fly's distributor in the European Union isn't filling orders either.

“This affects every U.S. whiskey producer from Jack Daniels all the way through to little guys like Dry Fly,” said Dry Fly co-founder Don Poffenroth, whose company has 10 employees, and who hosted AWB during the 2017 Manufacturing Week Tour. “We’re a tiny player in this whole equation, but it’s definitely a localized effect.”

And the trade disputes hurt the company on the production side, as well. The company wants to increase capacity, but America's newly imposed import tariffs mean the cost of European-made stainless-steel tanks have shot up 25 percent. Even U.S. manufacturers are charging more for their tanks, he said. And so, for now, Dry Fly's expansion plans are on hold.

During a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-WA, questioned U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on the administration's trade policies.

“Mr. Secretary, I want you to hear me. Apples and cherries are getting hurt,” Cantwell said. “Now, seafood, which again is also on short margin, is going to be in the same spot…”

Ross responded by saying tariffs today could ultimately lower trade tomorrow for American industries, including those that are dependent on intellectual property. Trade will be one of topics of discussion at AWB's second-annual Federal Affairs Summit, to be held Tuesday, Aug. 14, at the Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center. Learn more and register at AWB's website.

Contact Amy Anderson, AWB government affairs director for federal issues, to learn more.



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