Christmas Trees & the tariff crossfires

Why Christmas trees were caught in the crossfire
By Kurt Kipp,
Daily Digger,
Association of Oregon Nurseries

Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Read, international trade reporter at The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.), takes a look at the possible causes and the impact of the recently resolved U.S.-Mexico trucking dispute, which resulted in high tariffs on U.S.-grown Christmas trees and other products. According to Read, politics may explain why Christmas trees and certain other goods got entangled in a trucking dispute:

Fallout from the argument shows how trade disputes can widen and backfire, hurting businesses in unrelated industries. It’s a risk that politicians take when they wade into trade disputes, as Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., have done most recently in backing SolarWorld’s contention that China illegally dumps solar products in the United States at below cost to build market share.

Nafta, signed in 1994, called for Mexican trucks to enter border states the next year and gain full access to all U.S. highways by January 2000. But (Rep. Peter) DeFazio (D-Ore.) and others opposed access on safety and security grounds, seeking to protect U.S. jobs.

Mexico retaliated with $2 billion worth of tariffs on products including several from the Northwest: apples, cherries, pears, frozen potatoes and Christmas trees.

Members of Congress believe Mexican officials targeted products from opponents’ districts for maximum political pressure. DeFazio was not available Monday to comment on the issue.

Shortly after the tariffs were lifted on Friday, the Oregon Association of Nurseries issued a press release thanking the Obama administration and federal legislators Merkley, Wyden, DeFazio and Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) for their help in ending the impasse. The next day, the first Mexican truck arrived in the United States.

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