The Trump administration’s fast-and-loose tariff policies aren’t just some abstract fodder for Washington debate circles. They are hitting close to home. Local dog toy manufacturer West Paw Inc., for example, is feeling the pinch on materials it purchases from China.

The Trump administration has slapped 25 percent tariffs on more than $200 billion worth of Chinese imports and is threatening to do so on an additional $300 billion. That has led to sharp price increases for production materials purchased from China for West Paw. And those costs cannot be easily passed on to the firm’s customers.

The administration threatened to slap steep tariffs on imports from Mexico before pulling back last week. All this bad trade policy rhetoric is playing havoc with the markets.

The impacts of Chinese tariffs are even more pronounced on Montana farmers and ranchers. The steep retaliatory tariffs China has imposed on American imports has led to big losses in the markets for soybeans, pork, beef and other agricultural products produced by Montanans. State food producers have become heavily invested in Chinese markets in recent decades. The recent tariffs will send the Chinese to other nations in search of ag products and Montana producers may never recover their market share. This loss of Chinese consumers threatens the very viability of some farms and ranches.

Open international trade has long been recognized as an engine for economic growth on both ends of the transactions. And tariffs are universally recognized as trade impediments and tax increases – on the consumers who buy the end products. But those two basics can’t seem to sink into the administration.

Montana’s congressional delegation needs to speak with one voice about the unacceptability of tariffs. Republican Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Greg Gianforte need to band together with Democrat Sen. Jon Tester and as many of their colleagues they can get to sign on and bring pressure to bear on the administration to abandon this runaway tariff policy. Our state delegation proved it can have an effect when they banded together and got the administration to reverse its decision to close the Anaconda Job Corps. Now it’s time to rise to the challenge of changing ill-advised trade policies.

Because those policies are doing real damage right here in Big Sky Country.

Editorial Board

  • Mark Dobie, publisher
  • Nick Ehli, managing editor
  • Bill Wilke, opinion page editor
  • Don Beeman, community member
  • Richard Broome, community member
  • Renee Gavin, community member
  • Sarabeth Rees, community member
  • David Swingle, community member

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