American withdrawal from the TPP threatens American exports — first. And tariffs against imported solar panels could backfire badly.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership has been concluded among 11 Pacific Rim countries — but not the United States. That has eastern Washington wheat growers worried.
Glen Squires, president of the Washington Grain Commission, said, “There are photos from the 1950s and the 1960s of PNW farmers in Japanese supermarkets talking to housewives about the wheat they grow. From those humble beginnings, the Japanese market has become one of our most important. I’m heartbroken to think the relationships we have built over more than half a century will fall victim to political whims.”
And victims they may become. TPP will lower tariffs significantly on wheat from Canada and Australia. Especially at risk: Japan, which imported more than $1.6 billion in agricultural products from Washington in 2016.
The president and Democrat Bernie Sanders were both against TPP in the campaign, an anti-globalist stance that even caused Hillary Clinton to abandon it. I suspect that had she won the Electoral College, not just the popular vote, she would have found a way to sell TPP to the American public. As it is, we will pay the costs of being an outsider.
The hits keep coming. Consider the Trump tariffs on solar panels and washing machines, announced this week. The former carries a host of unintended (or intended) consequences. Clean energy will be made more expensive. American jobs will be put at risk — the $28 billion U.S. solar industry relies on parts made abroad, as well as laid-off installers. Some U.S. solar companies will see their stock rise, but the overall takeaway will be a net loss.
Paul Krugman, the Nobel laureate economist and New York Times columnist, tweeted: “This administration hates renewable energy. I don’t mean that it hates subsidizing it — it goes far beyond that. Remember, (Energy Secretary) Rick Perry tried to push a plan that would have forced users of other energy sources to subsidize coal and nuclear. Partly this reflects the view that what’s good for the Koch brothers is good for America. But I also think it’s a macho thing: real men pollute the environment, and anything else — solar and wind, but even relatively clean natural gas — is for sissies.”
Solar already employs more Americans than coal.
Although the tariffs aim at Asian manufacturers, China will take special offense. And it won’t be long before China decides to retaliate against the United States where it hurts. And that means pulling back on purchasing Boeing airliners.
NOTED: Washington turned in the third-fastest growth of state gross domestic product in last year’s third quarter, according to the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis.