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Analysis: US-China Trade Deal’s Potential Impact On Arkansas’ Economy

A study last year by Tariffs Hurt the Heartland found Arkansas businesses paid an extra $247 million in import taxes. Meanwhile, the state's exports faced $104 million in new retaliatory tariffs.

ROGERS — President Donald Trump on Wednesday, Jan. 15, signed a trade agreement with China that could benefit an array of Arkansas farmers and businesses.

Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping signed “phase one” of a deal that will lift U.S. sanctions on China in exchange for Beijing agreeing to buy American farm products like beef, pork, poultry, seafood and rice, according to the Associated Press.

Melvin Torres, director of Western Hemisphere trade at the World Trade Center Arkansas, said the benefits to the Natural State could be seen in the future despite some looming hurdles.

“Arkansas export dollars of soybean could optimistically increase by a maximum of up to $223 million; by $46 million in Chemical Wood pulp, Soda Etc.; by $23 million in Polymers of Styrene in Primary Forms; and by $16 million in Polymers of Polyvinyl Chloride, Plasticized, if the commodities return to their previous levels and volumes pre-tariffs.” Torres said.

“When added, an approximate total annualized increase of up to $308 million in export dollars may be optimistically gained by Arkansas farmers and businesses with the new trade deal in all those industries fully implemented, by returning to previous export levels and volumes as all phases of the agreement are implemented. This would consider the elimination of current tariffs that are still in effect.”

Torres said soybean farmers, who were hampered by tariffs and an unusually rainy spring, could benefit the most even with some tariffs still in effect.

“(Soybean exports) are the largest annualized export dollar amount to be optimistically gained from all goods and agricultural exports with a total maximum of $223 million,” Torres said.

“This includes a weighted average from the past 3 years of published data which includes pre and post tariff export dollars as well as current tariff elimination and returning to previous pricing levels. Many variables are included when analyzing a statistical set of data parameters with so many correlations using statistical inference and quantitative analysis.”

U.S. Sen. John Boozman, who helped establish the Center in 2007, was on hand for the singing ceremony.

“This is a big day for our nation, and especially our agriculture industry, farmers, ranchers and producers,” Boozman said.

“Delivering on this key issue is a great achievement.”

Rich Hillman, president of the Arkansas Farm Bureau, called the progress “welcome news” but pushed for continued negations toward a comprehensive deal.

“Agriculture is vital to the Natural State, and Phase One marks a needed step in addressing important priorities,” Hill said.

“This action expands American agriculture sales to China, and we look forward to seeing a positive impact on Arkansas’s economy.” 

Meanwhile, Tyson Foods, the world’s largest poultry producer, said it hopes the deal “leads to improved market access and lower tariffs, which would benefit our meat and poultry businesses and the farmers and ranchers who supply us.”

“We’re focused on feeding a growing global population with sustainable protein that includes Beef, Pork and Poultry and healthy trading relationships are key to us and our future,” a spokesperson said via e-mail. 

Last month, Reuters reported that Tyson was cleared by U.S. and Chinese authorities to begin exporting chicken from all 36 of its American plants.

The AP noted, however, that tariffs on roughly $360 billion in Chinese imports will remain.

A report last fall commissioned by the Tariffs Hurt the Heartland found that Americans shouldered roughly $38 billion more for consumer-facing goods since the trade war with China began in 2018, according to Talk Business & Politics.

That same study found Arkansas businesses paid an extra $247 million in import taxes. Meanwhile, the state’s exports faced $104 million in new retaliatory tariffs.

The mission of the World Trade Center Arkansas is to grow trade and increase Arkansas exports by connecting Arkansas businesses to the world through international trade services.

The center is part of the University of Arkansas and serves as the trade promotion arm for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. For more information and valuable updates, please follow the center on Facebook and Twitter or subscribe to the World Trade Center Arkansas newsletter.