Yearender: 2019 sees roller-coaster ride for U.S. industries, consumers amid trade uncertainty

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NEW YORK, Dec. 26 (Xinhua) -- For Americans, this Christmas season seems more worth celebrating thanks to the latest progress in U.S.-China trade talks.

Earlier this month, China and the United States agreed on the text of a phase-one economic and trade agreement based on the principle of equality and mutual respect, followed by the White House's decision not to proceed with planned tariffs targeting Chinese imports, including phones, computers, holiday ornaments, clothing and toys.


The move was widely welcomed by Americans from almost all walks of life.

"This achievement" is conducive to "further accomplishments," Kenneth Quinn, president of the World Food Prize Foundation and former U.S. ambassador to Cambodia, told Xinhua in an email interview.

"In my diplomatic experience, success often begets further success," said Quinn, who served as a U.S. diplomat for 32 years.

The veteran diplomat, who made his first trip to China in 1979 and has traveled there frequently since then, said he hopes that both sides would build on the progress to resolve the trade disputes as "it will contribute in an important way to ensuring the stability of the overall global trading system."

Stephen Roach, a senior fellow at Yale University's Jackson Institute of Global Affairs, told Xinhua that the phase-one agreement is a "positive signal in that it eliminates the imminent threat of new tariffs."

"It underscores the commitment of both nations to provide some relief to the tariff-related pressures on both economies as well as the broader global economy," said Roach.

Mark Haefele, global chief investment officer at UBS Wealth Management, said the deal "could unlock further upside for equity markets, driven by an improvement in business confidence and a recovery in investment."

Wall Street has been in a buoyant mood in recent days due to the progress of U.S.-China trade negotiations. As of Tuesday, the S&P 500 rose 2.6 percent this month, while the Nasdaq and the Dow grew 3.3 percent and 1.7 percent,respectively.


Although some tariffs were cancelled, U.S. buyers have already paid more for Chinese imports since the current administration took office.

Washington has imposed several rounds of tariffs since last year. In response, Beijing has hit back with tariffs on U.S. goods.

Calling the phase-one trade deal "a good signal," Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist of the U.S. National Retail Federation, said "we still have a far piece to go."

"We're still in a position where we have to face the facts that it is a tax and ultimately, consumers will have to deal with it in their wallets," since "we haven't removed tariffs on goods," Kleinhenz said last week while briefing the U.S. retail sector in a teleconference.

American consumers and businesses paid an additional 42 billion U.S. dollars from February 2018 through October 2019 as a result of Washington-initiated trade disputes, U.S. anti-tariff campaign group Tariffs Hurt the Heartland said earlier this month, citing data from the U.S. Commerce Department.

Americans for Free Trade spokesperson Jonathan Gold cautioned the trade spat "has lasted long enough and done enough damage," adding "it's time the administration finalized a deal with China" to end the disputes and remove all additional tariffs.


For U.S. businesses, industries and farmers yearning for long-term reliable markets, this year was bumpy amid growing global trade uncertainties.

The ongoing U.S.-initiated trade tensions with other major economies have been a big part of anxiety to U.S. bourbon manufacturers, Eric Gregory, president of the Kentucky Distillers' Association, told Xinhua in a recent interview.

"We are firm believers that nobody wins in a trade war, and Kentucky bourbon is just simply collateral damage at this point," said Gregory.

For Jamie Beyer, president of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association (MSGA), and her folks in the U.S. soybean farming industry, life was far from easy over the past year.

"We're frustrated more than anything. We have a good product in soybeans. We have a good customer in China and being prevented from trading with them is difficult," Beyer, also a soybean grower in the Midwest U.S. state of Minnesota, told Xinhua during an interview in August.

As the world's largest consumer of soybeans, China was the destination for about 60 percent of U.S. soybean exports before the trade disputes.

The ratio dropped to 17.9 percent in 2018 as a consequence of Washington's protectionist trade policies.

U.S. farm bankruptcies have surged 24 percent since September 2018, a few months after U.S. trade disputes with China and other countries led to higher tariffs on key farm goods, including soybeans, cotton and dairy, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Under such circumstances, the U.S. tourism industry has struggled to minimize the negative effects of trade frictions.

Ron Mahelen, chief executive officer of Minnesota-based CIAC Travel, told Xinhua in August that his agency has to promote harder their tourism products in order to draw more Chinese visitors.

"At this time, it's being threatened a little bit politically, and I hope that we can get back to a relationship that keeps the tourism activity strong," said Mahelen.

According to an estimate of the U.S. National Travel and Tourism Office, Chinese visitation to the United States reported a 4.7 percent decline through September 2019, after a nearly 6 percent drop in 2018.

The damage by the trade tensions is widespread. Economic activity in the U.S. manufacturing sector contracted for the fourth straight month in November, the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) reported.

"Global trade remains the most significant cross-industry issue," said Timothy Fiore, chair of the ISM's manufacturing business survey committee.


Many individuals, organizations and business groups in the United States have voiced their concerns about the tariffs' ripple effects on related industries and the broader U.S. economy while longing for a settlement.

Beyer said that resolving the trade disputes with China tops her wish list of 2019.

"Let's move forward to a resolution," said the industry leader, who joined the MSGA in 2015.

Beyer's view was echoed by her folks in U.S. agriculture, including Kelly D. Cunningham, a 52-year-old dairy farmer from the U.S. state of Iowa.

"We need China, we need that international market to make sure prices stay good and we're able to keep producing like we are," he said, adding that sustainable trade with China, a fast-growing dairy marketplace, is crucial to the future of the U.S. dairy, especially in its pursuit of increasing export.

A solution to the trade disputes between the United States and China is vital to the two countries and the stability of the world economy, Chad Hart, an agricultural economist who teaches at Iowa State University and a longtime U.S.-China trade watcher, told Xinhua.

"The longer this dispute goes on, the larger the losses become, because the damage continues to accumulate," he said.

Describing the world's two largest economies as "indisputable dance partners," he said "we are both large enough that we can't completely block the other party out."

Experts urged further joint efforts to address key structural differences, which would enhance trust and facilitate the overall bilateral relationship.

Roach said both sides need to focus more on common grounds "that would continue to bind the two economies together, rather than underscore the differences in conflicts" so as to repair the soured relationship.

"Maximum goodwill is needed" to accomplish further goals, said Quinn. Enditem

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