The Office of the US Trade Representative has acknowledged
correspondence from the West Coast port community, an official at the
Port of Oakland said Monday, after six of the ports sent a letter to the
Trump administration that addressed their growing concern with the
US-China trade standoff.
"The Port of Oakland is in favor of the flow of free and fair trade
because it directly benefits our import and export partners and their
workforces," Port of Oakland Maritime Director John C. Driscoll said in a
statement to China Daily on Monday.
The uncertainty regarding tariffs is generating serious concerns
among stakeholders as they try to plan, said the Port of Oakland, which
together with its partners support 84,000 jobs in the region and
indirectly 1.1 million jobs across the US.
Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero said that while
the port has yet to receive a response from the White House, its
representatives have been in contact with the Trump administration, and
the port is confident that its concerns are being heard.
"While there are very serious issues for the two sides to discuss, we
know that international trade is vital to the economies of both
countries. Both countries will benefit from a resolution of the
dispute," he said.
Officials at the ports in Washington expressed similar sentiment.
"Trade is critically important to The Northwest Seaport Alliance and
to the state of Washington, particularly Sino-US trade. China is our
largest trading partner, and we deeply value our relationships with
customers there," said Tong Zhu, chief commercial officer and chief
strategy officer of the Northwest Seaport Alliance, which comprises the
ports of Seattle and Tacoma.
In the letter dated Sept 23, the six largest West Coast ports — the
Port of Los Angeles, Port of Long Beach, Port of Oakland, ports of
Seattle and Tacoma, and the Port of Portland, warned that the escalating
trade conflict between the two countries "will create irredeemable
"US trade policy impacts not only our core businesses, but also the
success of our customers and the livelihoods of our local communities.
Collectively, our trade and logistics operations employ hundreds of
thousands of family-wage workers whose jobs rely on dependable trade
flows," the ports wrote.
The letter outlined the ports' concern about the impact that the
tariffs have on US exporters, adding that 38 percent of all US exports
to China by value go through the six ports alone.
California is the largest exporter to China of any state in the
nation, the letter stated. However, California ports collectively saw a
decrease of about 30 percent in exports to China.
The letter specifically pointed out the impact the tariffs have had
on certain commodities. For example, exports to China of wheat, which
were grown across 10 states from the Pacific Northwest to the Midwest
and exported via Washington and Oregon ports on the Columbia River, have
nearly ceased this year.
In California, soybean exports to China have declined 96.9 percent;
grain exports fell 85.5 percent; glass exports dropped 86.5 percent; and
rubber plunged 74.9 percent.
In Washington, several other goods have taken a hit, including
exports of potatoes (-16.85 percent), hay (-49.93 percent), skins and
hides (-47.89 percent), salmon (-47.71 percent), cherries (-54.56
percent) and fresh crab (-63.34 percent).
The effect of the US-China tariff is also evident at the Port of Long
Beach. While exports to other countries increased 10 percent, exports
to China fell 41.1 percent during the first half of 2019, compared with
the first half of 2018, the port's data shown.
In addition, imports from China are down 19.3 percent during the
first half of 2019, while imports from other countries are up 14.3
"About 2.6 million jobs in the US are connected to the Port of Long
Beach. We're concerned about the workers, businesses and other
stakeholders that depend on trade. The port is an economic engine that
powers the supply chain far and wide, and we are concerned that a
prolonged trade dispute could cause lasting damage to that economic
potential," Cordero said.
In the letter, the ports said they were worried that "the negative
impact to these exporters will be long-lasting, because they cannot
easily find new customers outside of China now that existing ones are
For example, Oregon accounts for nearly all the hazelnuts grown in
the United States – half of which are shipped to China. Retaliatory
tariffs could price Oregon growers out of the market and push Chinese
consumers toward hazelnuts grown by Turkey.
Other products facing similar jeopardy included: Washington dairy,
California grapes and "hundreds of other commodities", according to the
The letter came in just a couple of weeks before trade negotiators
between China and the US are set to engage in the next round of
A high-level talk between Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He, US Trade
Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is
set to begin Thursday to resolve the trade war between the two nations.
"We support a balanced trading relationship with our global partners
but are deeply concerned that the continued imposition of
ever-increasing tariffs leads to higher costs on US businesses and
consumers and loss of valuable markets without any long-term strategic
benefit," the ports said in their letter.
Linda Deng in Seattle contributed to this story.