A Trade War May Be Coming to Virginia

With his nascent China trade war taking shape, President Trump is taking the Republican Party back to its protectionist roots. Virginia may come to regret it.

For his part, Trump doesn’t think we’re entering a war. He says we lost the conflict long ago, owing to “the foolish, or incompetent, people who represented the U.S.” in trade negotiations with the Chinese.

That assertion will come as a shock to Virginia businesses, who are doing quite well in the China trade.

According to the U.S.-China Business Council, China is second to Canada as the commonwealth’s largest foreign market for goods. In 2016, Virginia firms sold $1.4 billion worth of material to Chinese buyers, with the biggest sales coming from pulp and paperboard, meat products and scrap metal.

On the service side, Virginia’s biggest sales to Chinese buyers were travel and education. The Chinese like to visit us and send their kids to school here. It all adds up to economic activity and job creation, things every Virginia governor has chased with great zeal. And few showed as much eagerness to open Chinese markets to Virginia goods as former governor Terry McAuliffe (D).

In 2007, China banned imports of Virginia poultry after testing at a Shenandoah farm came back positive for avian flu. Poultry is big business in Virginia, directly employing more than 17,000 people and generating more than $13 billion in direct and indirect economic activity. Maintaining access to a huge foreign market like China, then, made great economic and political sense.

But nothing happened until 2014, when McAuliffe went to work. As The Post’s Laura Vozzella reported at the time:

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the former Democratic governor of Iowa, met with McAuliffe and Haymore to discuss the ban. So did U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman. McAuliffe and Haymore also held a conference call with Max Baucus last spring, just as the former Democratic senator from Montana was heading off to China to begin his new job as U.S. ambassador.

Within a month, the ban was lifted, and Virginia was back to selling millions of dollars worth of “chicken feet and wing tips” in the Chinese market.

Or consider the example of McAuliffe’s predecessor, Robert F. McDonnell (R), who made a great show of promoting Virginia wine to a number of potential foreign buyers, including those in China.

In 2013, McDonnell touted a five-year deal between a Chinese importer and a Floyd County vintner, Chateau Morrisette. McDonnell said  it was the kind of deal that “ultimately provide[s] new opportunities, and new jobs, for our agribusinesses and citizens.”

Those opportunities may be harder to come by, as China has imposed a 15 percent tariff on U.S. wines, including sparkling wine, a prime product of aspiring Virginia vintner Eric Trump.

The younger Trump already exports his wines to Canada, Scotland, India and Panama. The Trump winery supposedly has plans to “expand the wines’ distribution nationally and globally.”

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  • old_redneck

    Out here on the Northern Neck, 100% of the fish meal produced by Omega Protein in Reedville is shipped to China. Fish meal is one of the items on the Chinese list of raised tariffs. Omega employs 250 people in Northumberland County — the #2 employer in the county (second to the school system). If China slows down their fish meal purchases, we lose jobs that we cannot afford to lose.

    Still, Trump could personally set fire to every single-wide and double-wide in the South and the goobers would vote for him as long as he keeps those brown people away from the border and keeps Hillary out of the White House.

  • David Obermark

    We can not continue to do business”as is” with China.

    But we can not fight this trade war by ourselves, we need to enlist the help of our allies.

  • old_redneck

    Things that make you say “Hmmmm?”

    The tariffs that Trump slapped on China exempt certain items imported from China. Among the imported items not affected by the tariffs are clothing, shoes, and jewelry of the same type manufactured in China and sold in the US under the Donald Trump and Ivanka Trump brand names.

    Hmmmm.

    Oh, my goodness — and did you also notice on the Donald Trump website and the Ivanka Trump website they offer free two-day shipping via USPS — at the same bulk shipping rate used by Amazon? And Ivanka even offers AmazonPay as a choice for payment.

    Hmmmm.

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