Recently, President Trump kicked off his re-election campaign right here in my home state of Florida, just up the road a ways in Orlando. He started here because he knows how important Florida is to winning re-election in 2020 – and he’s done a lot to help our state since he first took office.
He’s cut taxes for Florida small businesses and families. He’s eliminating burdensome and expensive regulations that make it harder for Florida businesses to grow and thrive. And he’s putting America first. President Trump’s success in Florida can be seen everywhere. Last year alone, nearly250,000 jobs were created in Florida. And Florida’s economy has grown so powerful, if Florida were its own country, our economy would be the 17th largest in the world.
But I fear that all of the good work the President has done to help Florida is being erased by the trade war, and specifically tariffs.
Now, I understand why President Trump is standing up to China and I applaud him for it – and it’s about time we had an American leader who did. China has been thumbing their nose at us for years – to the detriment of American businesses and American workers. And past presidents and other leaders have just turned a blind eye. We can no longer allow them to get away with this.
But tariffs are actually a tax that American businesses and consumers pay to the federal government in order to import goods from a foreign country. That means that these tariffs are penalizing Florida businesses and Florida families – not the Chinese government or Chinese companies. We are the ones paying this tax. With the current tariffs in place, excluding the most recent additions that have yet to go into effect, through March of this year Floridians have paid more than $601 million worth of these import taxes. On top of that, Floridians have paid an additional $153 million on retaliatory import taxes, which have hit Florida’s farmers extra hard.
It seemed at first that the threat of these tariffs was bringing China to the negotiating table in good faith. But in the year since the Administration first announced tariffs on China, negotiations have stalled. And after the most recent announcement of additional tariffs on goods from China, including things like school supplies, important medical devices like pacemakers, air conditioning units that are in high demand during Florida’s hot summer months and children’s toys, the talks appear to have completely broken down. Recent news reports show the situation is only getting worse, with the two sides unable to agree on even when to restart negotiations – let alone on what both sides need to end this trade war. In fact, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the Administration may impose even more tariffs on China if a deal isn’t reached soon.
Even if the tariffs were working to help us get a better deal, using them as a short-term negotiating tactic can create long-term damage for American companies. Setting up a reliable supply chain is a big undertaking and can take months or even years to get a dependable and affordable supply chain. Disruptions like these tariffs create a ripple effect that can impact these supply chains for much longer than the tariffs are in place – and potentially indefinitely.
I am proud to work in Florida’s seafood industry, providing Floridians and tourists who visit our state from across the country and around the world with a large and safe variety of fresh seafood. But while I am sure that, like myself, American companies would prefer to use only American-made goods, our country has grown so large that we simply can’t produce everything American companies need and American consumers want within the United States. We must import products from other countries in order to meet demand.
And what a lot of people don’t realize is that these imports actually help to create and sustain American jobs. In the seafood industry alone, more than 72,000 hard-working men and women in Florida rely on imported seafood for their job.
President Trump is right – China must be held accountable for their actions. But tariffs aren’t the answer. I hope President Trump reconsiders using tariffs to punish China because so far the only people that are being punished are American businesses and consumers.
Andy Walton is the CEO of Supreme Crab & Seafood, Inc., a seafood company based in Doral, FL.