China has imposed a 15 per cent tariff on apples imported from the United States, causing a chain reaction throughout the continent. Jeff Colombini, a prominent California grower and board member of the U.S. Apple Association, has expressed deep concerns over escalating trade tensions initiated by the Trump administration. He spoke at a media event on April 26, 2018 organized by Farmers for Free Trade.
Colombini discussed the importance of maintaining the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and duty-free access to the Chinese market.
“NAFTA is critical to the economic health of both the California and U.S. apple industries,” said Colombini, president of Lodi Farming, Inc., located in the northern San Joaquin Valley. “Under the agreement, the apple industry has quadrupled its exports to Mexico and doubled its exports to Canada with combined purchases of nearly $450 million per year.”
According to USApple, growers have benefitted greatly under NAFTA. Prior to the agreement, Mexico imposed a 20 per cent tariff on U.S. apple imports. Now, with duty free access, Mexico is the U.S. apple industry’s largest export market, followed by Canada. Maintaining NAFTA without interruption, including current dispute resolution provisions, is a top priority for USApple.
Colombini also spoke about the impact of China’s retaliatory tariffs on agriculture commodities, including a 15 percent tariff on U.S. apples.
“This is a tremendous concern as China has significant growth potential because it doesn’t grow the many apple varieties we grow and Chinese consumers are excited to experience those unique taste profiles,” Colombini told reporters. “The retaliatory tariffs imposed by China will hurt apple growers’ ability to maintain and expand this emerging market.”
The U.S. apple industry achieved full access to the Chinese market in 2015. Since then, apple exports have grown to 2.5 million boxes per year and China is now the apple industry’s sixth largest export market. Overall, roughly $3 billion in new Chinese tariffs have been put into place on U.S. agriculture products in retaliation for U.S. tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum from China.
“Trade is critical to the health and future of the entire apple industry,” concluded Colombini. “If the apples meant for export don’t find homes overseas, they come here to California and they go to the East Coast. This leads to supply issues and impacts everyone’s bottom line.”
Source: U.S. Apple April 26, 2018 news release.