Port of LA: Tariffs Threaten Millions of U.S. Jobs

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Published Nov 21, 2019 9:54 PM by The Maritime Executive

 A new study commissioned by the Port of Los Angeles finds that U.S. tariffs put nearly 1.5 million American jobs and more than $185 billion in economic activity at risk nationwide - based solely on the impact of tariffs on cargo handled in the San Pedro Bay port complex.
To bring home the reality of tariffs' effects at the local level, the report breaks down the impact by state and congressional district. Imports through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach flow to every state, and goods grown or manufactured in every state flow back through these ports to reach global markets, primarily in Asia. Texas alone benefits from nearly $25 billion in economic activity facilitated by these twin ports. Even Maine and Vermont, the furthest states from California in the Lower 48, have a multi-million-dollar stake in economic activity facilitated by the ports - and that stake is affected by tariff policy. 

“Every urban, suburban and rural community across our nation benefits from imports and exports moving through the San Pedro Bay ports, and ongoing tariffs are putting those benefits at risk,” said Port of Los Angeles executive director Gene Seroka. “Some regions and industries are already feeling the pain, and the damage to jobs, income and tax revenue could be crippling down the road.”

China is the primary target of the Trump administration's tariff policy, and Chinese producers account for about half of the imports passing through San Pedro Bay. Chinese retaliatory tariffs affect China-bound American exports, and Chinese buyers account for nearly a third of the American products headed overseas out of LA and Long Beach. 

“Tariffs are a tax on U.S. companies and consumers. Recent data from Tariffs Hurt the Heartland shows Americans have paid an extra $38 billion in tariffs because of the trade war—and that number is only getting higher,” said Jonathan Gold, spokesman for Americans for Free Trade. "As the trade negotiations continue, it is imperative that both sides come to a final agreement that removes all tariffs."

The impact can be seen in the Port of LA's numbers, according to Seroka. Last month's TEU total was down by 19 percent year-on-year relative to the record highs set in October 2018. “With 25 percent fewer ship calls, 12 consecutive months of declining exports and now decreasing imports, we’re beginning to feel the far-reaching effects of the U.S.-China trade war,” said Seroka in a statement. “With the holiday season upon us, less cargo means fewer jobs for American workers."