The growing trade war with China is politics all mixed up. It’s an issue that divides many Republicans from President Donald J. Trump. And some of the president’s most strident supporters from coal companies to farmers are not happy with his policy.
This is Trahant Reports.
But make no mistake: The outcome (when it finally occurs) is a dollar-and-cents issue that will impact the daily lives of Native people, tribal governments, and businesses. Why? A tariff is a tax.
It’s a tax bill that’s paid every time someone buys a product that’s on a country’s tariff list. And so now many agriculture products, such as soybeans, will be taxed by China.
According to the National Congress of American Indians: “Agriculture is increasingly important to Native economies, representing the economic backbone of more than 200 tribal communities and witnessing an 88 percent increase in the number of American Indian farmers between 2002 and 2007. According to the Census of Agriculture, in 2007 annual Indian agriculture production exceeded $1.4 billion in raw agriculture products.”
Agriculture represents one risk in a trade war.
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Oklahoma, wrote last month, “In general, free trade contributes to our national prosperity as well. However, having open markets is not an invitation for others to take advantage of us.” Cole, who is Chickasaw, called tariffs bad news for his state.
Cole told CNBC Friday that “outside of agricultural areas” the trade issue is a net plus because “somebody is finally doing something about China, which has simply ripped us off since we let them in” the World Trade Organization.
A potential trade war also has huge implications for global warming. The Trump administration, of course, has attacked virtually every climate policy from the past administration. And, the first action in this trade dispute involved solar panels. Now the trade war could upend extractive industries, especially coal.
China has not yet levied a tariff on coal, but it’s widely expected because of the industry’s ties to President Trump. China is the world’s largest importer of coal.
Tribes that mine coal, such as the Crow Nation in Montana, have looked toward China and Asian markets as a way to make coal great again. But other tribes along the shipping route, such as the Lummi Nation in Washington, see dirty coal trains bound for Asia as a threat to salmon and their treaty rights.
There is a connection between global trade and global warming. A report by United Nations says this issue presents an “important policy conundrum: behind every trade transaction there is a production process and, in turn, associated greenhouse gas emissions. Policies that modify trade (trade policies) can influence emissions, while policies for reducing emissions (climate change policies) can also influence trade.”
So a trade war could slow commerce — and the emissions that cause global warming. I am Mark Trahant.