How Trade Tariffs Impact New Hampshire’s Export Economy

Jul 7, 2018

Credit Bernard Spragg via Wikimedia Commons

It can be hard to get excited about something as abstract as a soybean or steel tariff, but that doesn't mean you can just ignore it.

“I think there are a number of reasons for people in New Hampshire to be paying attention to it,” says Dave Juvet, senior vice president with the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire, which firmly opposes these tariffs.

Juvet says international trade, especially with Canada, is embedded in the Granite State economy, with roughly 183,000 jobs in the state supported by exports.

That means any tension or new barriers to the smooth flow of goods across borders has the potential to sting.

“Secondly, it could make things more expensive. Tariffs almost act like an additional sales tax on specific items.”

So for New Hampshire businesses that export, the retaliatory tariffs from China, Canada and Mexico will make their products less competitive. On the list of goods in the crosshairs are everything from New Hampshire-caught lobsters to chandeliers to various glues.

There are local businesses, though, that say they stand to benefit from the Trump Administration’s ‘America first’ trade policy. That includes American Steel Fabricators, which employees 40 people in Greenfield. Mark Carter, CEO, says his company’s chief rivals are in Canada, meaning a targeted tariff could raise their costs and, thus, boost his sales.  

“The tariffs can really only help with that specific instance,” says Clark.

Clark is actually a free trade guy, but he thinks the President’s approach makes sense right now.

“You know, tariffs are a policy that generally are recognized not to be in the best interests of trading partners, but it seems that America is already losing the trade war, so it seems like America has the least to lose.”

How much New Hampshire stands to lose or gain is still a moving target. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, for now, there are roughly $30-million worth of Granite State exports threatened by tariffs. That’s still just a tiny fraction of the more than $5-billion in exports the state produces each year.