LINCOLN — The trade war has cost Nebraska nearly $400 million, and is on track to cost more, according to an economist who has studied the Nebraska impact.
Ed Balistreri of Iowa State University presented the results of his research Thursday at a one-day conference on trade at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
For more than two years, the U.S. and China have seen little progress in talks — 13 rounds as of this month — while periodically alternating hikes on each other. President Donald Trump escalates import taxes on Chinese goods, and Beijing imposes retaliatory tariffs.
Trump’s decision to address concerns about intellectual property theft by China through tariffs has drawn criticism from Nebraska’s ag groups and congressional members who say it hurts farmers.
In fact, Balistreri found, retaliatory tariffs between the Trump administration and other countries has cost the U.S. about one-half to 1% of the GDP.
That’s more than the country benefited from the North American Free Trade Agreement in the 1990s, said Balistreri, director of the trade and policy division of the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development at Iowa State.
The total cost to Nebraskans, what economists call the “welfare cost,” is nearly $400 million, Balistreri found. He said his economic model did not take into account the billions in aid that the Trump administration has promised to farmers to offset losses from the trade war.
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The impacts are projected to increase even more in December, when more tariffs go into effect.
“The impacts on Nebraska seem to escalate quite a bit,” he said.
(Using a different measure and projecting over time, the Nebraska Farm Bureau has said farmers expect to lose nearly a billion dollars in revenue this year.)
On Sept. 1, the U.S. government began collecting 15% tariffs on $112 billion in Chinese imports. More U.S. tariffs affecting $160 billion worth of Chinese products take effect in December.
Another finding by Balistreri: Even if other countries were not retaliating with tariffs of their own, U.S.-imposed tariffs would still have a negative impact on Nebraska.
Agriculture, steel, aluminum and other tariffs affect not just Nebraska agriculture, speakers said, but a variety of industries including services and manufacturing.
Chris Roth, president of Reinke Manufacturing, said that although his company buys domestic steel, tariffs still affected it. After Trump imposed tariffs on foreign steel, domestic steel became more expensive because demand increased.
A former chief U.S. agricultural negotiator, Darci Vetter, argued that people in trade circles should connect the benefits of trade to the high-level discussions going on. Her example: being able to buy strawberries in January, a time when not many Nebraskans are able to grow the summer fruit.
“Trade sort of became the boogeyman for a lot of the angst people are feeling about the economy and globalization,” she said. “Shame on us … for not clearly connecting the dots between having a strong trading system and the benefits we all see.”
Trade watchers say the September and December rounds of tariffs will be felt more by consumers.
Chinese-made goods affected by the September tariffs included smartwatches and TVs, shoes, diapers, sporting goods and meat and dairy products.
This report includes material from the Associated Press.
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