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Threat and reality of tariffs not yet a factor in Mississippi

By JACK WEATHERLY

The United States and China are in a standoff on agricultural trade, with the communist nation threatening to impose a 25 percent tariff on U.S. soybeans and other crops.

“I think there is some hope that [the sides in] this standoff will back down,” said Dr. Keith Coble, head of the agricultural economics department at Mississippi State University.

Mississippi’s soybean production in 2017 was valued at $1.27 billion, but the state is not alone in facing the possible consequences of a tariff, Coble said.

“The soybean market is so integrated in the United States that what happens to the export market affects every soybean farmer in the United States,” Coble said.

“The U.S. position started with concerns that really didn’t involve agriculture, but when you impose tariffs on another country they’re going to counter with an action that is not in the same sector . . . but in a sector where they can hurt you the worst,” he said.

The United States exports nearly half of its soybeans and half of that goes to China.

The Chinese retaliation came after America imposed a 25 percent tariff on Chinese steel and 10 percent on Chinese aluminum starting March l.

Jay Moon, president and chief executive of the Mississippi Manufacturers Association said in an interview that the U.S. is not entering a trade war, but rather is taking a “course correction.”

The United States’ trade imbalance with China reached a record $375.2 billion last year, according to the Commerce Department.

“Now we have to rebalance that,” Moon said. “I think that’s what the president is doing.”

Theft of U.S. intellectual property allows China to illegally benefit at the expense of the United States.

“A lot of people are talking about the pain that’s going to be felt [because of the tariffs.] There’s already a lot of pain that’s being felt.”

The so-called dumping of Chinese steel on the United States led to Trump’s decision to impose a tariff.

But Moon says only about 2 percent of the steel used in the United States is from China.

And the Mississippi Manufacturers Association members have not felt the impact of the tariff on Chinese steel, Moon said.

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