“From lobster to blueberries to dairy to potatoes to manufacturing, Trump’s trade war has checked all the boxes of an economic disaster for Maine.”

In a new op-ed in the Bangor Daily News, Lee Webb, a former senior fellow at the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at the University of Maine, argues that Trump’s failed trade war with China didn’t produce any great trade deals, but its disastrous ripple effects have left Maine’s economy in crisis.

Bangor Daily News: Trump’s trade war left Maine’s economy in crisis

By Lee Webb
October 22, 2020

Key Points:

  • Donald Trump promised that he would deliver “the greatest trade deals” in American history when he visited our state during his 2016 campaign. But after four years of historic failures, including a trade war lost to China, Trump has left Maine industries reeling.
  • After he imposed tariffs on Chinese goods — and China retaliated — our lobster exports dropped by 50 percent. Our wild blueberry market contracted by a staggering 97 percent. Our dairy farms could lose an average of $50,000 a piece. And our manufacturing businesses are facing input price hikes of more than 40 percent.
  • In the end, Trump settled for a phase one deal with China that didn’t address the structural issues that sparked the trade war to begin with. And worse, it doesn’t even undo the damage he caused. The president managed to secure vague promises to purchase more U.S products, including lobster, but so far China hasn’t lived up to that promise. In fact, China bought less U.S. lobster in 2020 than in 2019, when the trade war was in full swing.
  • In the final years of Obama’s presidency into 2017, wild blueberry exports to China quadrupled. But then Trump slapped tariffs on American frozen fruit and wild blueberries. Almost overnight, wild blueberry exports to China nearly vanished, straining farmers and rural Mainers who relied on exports of the iconic fruit. Then, making a bad situation worse, the wild blueberry industry was excluded from the administration’s bailout package to help farmers recover from the president’s bad trade policies.
  • After China retaliated with tariffs on dairy products, Maine dairy farms were suddenly competing with domestic producers who lost a vital foreign market, leading to wild swings in prices. One economist estimated that the average Maine farm will lose tens of thousands in revenue.
  • His tariffs on vital imported inputs — like steel and aluminum — did little to revitalize American producers, but did manage to drive up the price of imported steel and aluminum for many Maine manufacturers.
  • Maine workers and business owners deserve better, which is why we need to elect Joe Biden in November. He helped bring the U.S. economy back from the brink once, and he can do it again.