COLUMBIA — South Carolina's business community is calling on the state's congressional delegation to help educate the Trump administration about effects its trade policies could have on the state's economy.
In a letter sent Tuesday to South Carolina's two U.S. senators and seven House members, South Carolina Chamber of Commerce President Ted Pitts asked the state's delegation "to do whatever it takes to inform the administration about the jobs at risk when it takes a narrower view of trade."
Last Friday, the United States slapped 25 percent taxes on $34 billion in Chinese imports, mostly industrial goods the Trump administration says receive subsidies or other unfair support from Beijing. China quickly lashed back with tariffs on $34 billion in U.S. products.
Some manufacturers in South Carolina have expressed concerns about the effects of the administration's shifting trade policy. BMW, which employs 10,000 people in its South Carolina plant, said on Monday that it would raise prices on U.S.-built SUVs exported to China due to the tariffs. According to the dpa news agency, the Munich-based company said that it is "not in a position to completely absorb the tariff increases."
Last month, BMW warned in a letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross that tariffs would make it harder for it to sell its South Carolina-made vehicles in China, "potentially leading to a strongly reduced export volumes and negative effects on investment and employment in the United States."
Through the Charleston port, the BMW vehicles produced in South Carolina are exported to 140 countries, making BMW the largest U.S. auto exporter. Last year, BMW exported 272,000 vehicles from the Spartanburg plant, more than half its total production. Of those, 81,000 — worth $2.37 billion — went to China. BMW says its exports reduced the U.S. trade deficit by around $1 billion.
In his letter, Pitts beseeched U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott, along with the state's seven U.S. House members, to impress upon the administration that its actions could have negative repercussions in states like South Carolina, which strongly backed President Donald Trump's candidacy.
"The administration's approach to tariffs and trade needs to be broader in thought and more targeted in its application," Pitts wrote. "Otherwise, it will cost South Carolina jobs as manufacturers do what any business would do: shift production to other facilities around the world where it costs less to do business."
Gov. Henry McMaster, an early Trump campaign supporter, is backed by the president in his own campaign this year and has been largely silent on the tariff issue. Earlier this week, the Herald-Journal of Spartanburg -- in whose distribution area the BMW plant is located -- penned an editorial calling on the governor "to intercede on behalf of South Carolinians who could lose their jobs because of the president's policies."