Gov. Roy Cooper on Thursday asked President Donald Trump to halt the trade war because it is harming North Carolina’s farmers and manufacturers.
In a letter to the Republican president, Democrat Cooper said escalating tariffs have already damaged the state’s pork and tobacco farms, and that manufacturers could suffer from rising steel and aluminum prices.
“While North Carolinians support a level playing field for exports, the tariffs imposed by the U.S. Administration and retaliation by trading partners seem to uniquely target agriculture goods that are the foundation of our state’s economy,” Cooper wrote.
Last month the Trump administration sharply increased taxes on steel and aluminum imported from Canada, Mexico and the European Union. The administration argued that imports from those countries had weakened the U.S.’s ability to build arms and equipment for the military. The countries retaliated by raising tariffs on American goods.
Canada is North Carolina’s top international trading partner. North Carolina exported $6.6 billion worth of goods to the neighboring country last year, which was more than the value of goods it sent to the next two top customers: Mexico and China combined, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. An estimated 247,500 jobs in this state are supported by business with Canada, the Canadian government reports.
Cooper says the retaliatory tariffs pose a risk to $210 million in annual pork exports to Mexico and China, and $340 million in tobacco exports to Turkey, the European Union and China. North Carolina also has $36 million worth of aluminum and $240 million worth of steel exports to Canada and the EU, according to Cooper’s letter.
The governor notes that steel and aluminum imports from those countries are just a small part of the state’s $4 billion fabricated metal manufacturing industry; however, the tariffs will still increase production costs.
“Our state’s farmers, manufacturers and technology industries remain worried, and rightly so,” Cooper wrote. “Please use your power to stop the losses from retaliatory tariffs and indirect effects to keep our state’s economy strong.”
U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows, a Republican, said on Thursday he has heard of concerns from manufacturers who oppose the tariff increases. But grassroots voters are not so concerned.
“I’m probably in a more unique situation in that we lost more jobs in my congressional district because of NAFTA than probably any other congressional district,” said Meadows, whose district covers most of western North Carolina. “There is a natural inclination to support tariffs in my district versus not.”
NAFTA was to blame for textile and furniture jobs going to China, he said.
Staff writer Richard Stradling contributed.