Pork tariffs: short term complication or long term cost?

I’ve noticed down here in Des Moines at the World Pork Expo that quite a few U.S. hog industry people seem to be assuming today’s tariffs on U.S. pork by Mexico and China are just a short term thing, something that will be removed when the Negotiator-in-Chief resolves the U.S.-launched trade wars.

Especially amongst those who seem to be sympathetic to, to like or to support U.S. President Donald J Trump there seems to be optimism that this piling up of tariffs and costs on the U.S. hog industry will go away pretty soon before any lasting damage is done.

Hmmmmmmmmm . . . That seems like a pretty risky assumption to me.

My experience in covering agricultural trade disputes over the last 24 years has been that they tend to go on and on and on and on, with nobody willing to quickly back down from positions they have taken.

Trump has done much to offend the Chinese and Mexicans. They don’t have much reason to play nice. He’s offended Canada too, but so far hasn’t pushed his trade war with us into the major agricultural areas.

Maybe Trump will fluke off a quick resolution to these trade battles with Mexico and China. But that would take a good negotiator, and he’s never proven he’s anything like that. So far he’s created and escalated a bunch of disputes. Let’s see if he can resolve them. Maybe he doesn’t even want to. But if he does and is successful, good on him.

I’m hoping the Canada-U.S. trade battle won’t spread into big agricultural commodities like pork. We share an integrated industry and it’s pretty darned efficient. We buy pork from each other. (My Costco, in the middle of a huge Canadian hog production area, sells U.S. pork.) No serious players in the U.S. industry want to see border obstacles muck it up.

But Trump seems to enjoy escalating tensions, so I don’t share the optimistic assumptions of many American hog industry people about the anti-trade crusade of Trump ending any time soon.

And for the sake of the Canadian farmers I write for, and the welfare of U.S. farmers who they share an industry with, I’m just hoping any escalation doesn’t hit the agriculture space, because that’s the last thing anybody needs.

(To catch what I’m doing down here, follow me on Twitter @EdWhiteMarkets)


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