WASHINGTON - Twenty-five Republican and three Democrat congressmen and women have penned a letter to the Trump Administration urging a quick end to the trade war with China.
"U.S. hardwood exports to China hit an all-time high in 2017 and were on track to beat that record in 2018 until the industry felt various retaliatory actions," the letter reads. "Since initial tariffs were imposed and resulting retaliatory tariffs levied, exports to China have dropped 43 percent an equivalent of $615 million.
"For an industry that is comprised of mostly small, family-owned businesses, these losses have presented incredible challenges. Seemingly every week, mill owners are declaring bankruptcy and employees of these operations are being notified that their jobs are eliminated. For thsoe more financially stable, many workers' shifts are being scaled back to balance production with the reduced demand."
The letter goes on to call tariffs blunt instruments, and urges the Trump administration to seek a "quick and equitable resolution" to trade tensions with China, and to include the hardwood forest products industry in the Department of Agriculture's Market Facilitation Program (MFP). MFP provides assistance to farmers with commodities directly impacted by foreign retaliatory tariffs, resulting in the loss of traditional export markets.
China responded to President Trump's Chinese import tariffs with tariffs of their own in July 2018. Those included 25 percent hits on exports of red oak, walnut, and seven other hardwoods.
Nathan Jeppson, CEO of Northwest Hardwoods, recently met with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to push for relief. The Washington-based company - and one of the country's largest hardwood suppliers - said it was forced to shut down both a Virginia and Washington sawmill this month because of China's retaliatory tariffs. Northwest says it has laid off 225 employees since 2018.
“Across our industry, the trade dispute has drastically decreased demand for U.S. produced hardwood,” Northwest Hardwoods said in a statement. “As China looks to other countries with less regulated and sustainable hardwood supplies to meet market demand, supply chains may be permanently disrupted.”
The tariffs are polarizing. Jeppson and other executives believe they've been disastrous for the U.S. economy. Others acknowledge they're hurting right now, but believe they're necessary long-term. 67 percent of recently-polled Wisconsin manufacturing executives said they support the tariffs even though tariffs are hurting their businesses. Others acknowledge they relied too much on China.
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