Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced last week that he and a trade delegation planned to make a fourth visit to China, in the fall.
In other times, we’d fully support such a sojourn. Arkansas has profited tremendously from its trade with China, which, with 1.43 billion people, is the largest market on the planet, and we’ve profited from its investment in this state.
This is an Opinion
Now, however, we have to ask whether the governor’s visit is a wise use of resources, or whether Hutchinson is perhaps captive to a nostalgia for a time when the Oval Office wasn’t occupied by a man devoted to protectionist policies.
These policies have led to a trade war that has had devastating effects on Arkansas, hurting farmers and delaying projects like the $410 million textile plant that promised to bring 800 jobs to Forrest City.
President Donald Trump’s “good, and easy to win” trade war is now taking a toll on the U.S. timber industry, which has seen hardwood exports to China fall 40% this year, according to a story last week in the Wall Street Journal. “The lower demand pushed U.S. hardwood lumber prices down 20% in August from a year earlier and prompted companies to seek government assistance,” the paper said.
The timber industry, which also includes softwood, is huge in Arkansas, with a payroll of $1.5 billion in 2017 and an economic impact of $6.4 billion. Steve Anthony, president of Anthony Timberlands Inc. of Bearden, told the WSJ, “We’ve never been one to clamor for a government bailout, but if they are passing around money to those injured by the tariffs, the hardwood lumber industry would certainly seem to qualify.”
So, Gov. Hutchinson, how effective can state efforts be when they’re being undercut by the president of the United States?