The Accumulating Impacts and Costs of Trade Wars
Derrell Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension
via Drovers - January 9, 2019
Evolving market dynamics make it easy to underestimate how the impacts and costs of trade issues will continue to grow in 2019. Many agricultural markets have been impacted thus far and the damage will grow and spread unless resolutions are forthcoming promptly. Trade issues will have accumulating impacts in a variety of ways as more time passes.
The most obvious impacts of trade wars are the direct impacts of tariffs and disruptions in trade flows in specific markets. This includes numerous agricultural markets; in particular soybeans and pork as a result of reciprocal tariffs with China; and pork and dairy markets as a result of the retaliatory tariffs from U.S. imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum. The new NAFTA (USMCA) agreement is not yet ratified and implemented but, in any event, much of the benefit is negated by these other tariffs. Economic impacts of tariffs may be initially limited mostly to changes in margins if the disruptions are perceived to be short-lived. Later the impacts will evolve from the initial market shock to larger and more permanent adjustments. With more time and on-going uncertainty about trade issues, more and more of the cost of tariffs are passed on to buyers; alternative products flows develop; and lost market shares become much more difficult to undo. The direct costs of tariffs are difficult to measure but certainly grow over time.
Even more difficult to measure are the lost opportunities associated with trade issues. Itís difficult to know how much you lost from something you never had. For example, the U.S. withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) two years ago. The remaining eleven countries continued and launched the revised TPP (CPTPP) in January 2019. Not only does the U.S. not have the benefit of tariff adjustments and increased market access with TPP; going forward the U.S. will be increasingly less competitive and likely lose ground relative to TPP participants. The stated U.S. intention to negotiate bilateral trade deals with Japan and others has so far not resulted in new agreements or even serious discussions. Any agreements that may result are many months if not years away. In China, the U.S. beef industry had barely begun to build on the market access achieved in 2017 before tariffs hit in 2018. What was expected to be a lengthy process to grow market share for U.S. beef is now at a standstill. While the tariffs didnít result in significant direct impact since little U.S. beef was exported to China but it certainly is restricting any chance for U.S. beef to participate in the growing Chinese market for beef.
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