Cleveland business and farm leaders discuss impact of trade war and looming tariff increases

Cleveland, Ohio business and agricultural leaders gathered May 7 at Cleveland Whiskey to discuss the impact of the ongoing trade war and looming tariff increases to businesses, consumers and farmers. The conversation followed President Trump’s recent announcement that tariffs on $200 billion in goods would increase from 10 to 25 percent.

The event was jointly sponsored by Tariffs Hurt the Heartland and the Council of the Great Lakes Region as part of the 2019 Great Lakes Economic Forum. Industry experts and local leaders discussed the real-world consequences of existing tariffs for the state’s and region’s economy and warned of the impact of additional tariffs, which are paid by Ohio businesses and consumers.

“There should have been two or three more employees here we would have hired this year,” said Cleveland Whiskey Founder and CEO, Tom Lix, who hosted the event. “They’re not here because we couldn’t afford to hire them. That’s the impact on a small business like us.”

“For the average business in the United States, they are having a hard time understanding what the end game is here,” said event moderator Ed Brzytwa, Director of International Trade at the American Chemistry Council. “Is this just a negotiating threat or is this real? It’s really hard to plan around that.”

“What we have is uncertainty going on,” said Ann Wilson, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs at the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association. “What you are seeing from our global members is that they are not investing in the United States, period. They are not making investment in places like Ohio because they are not sure whether that investment is going to be able to bear fruit.”

“These tariffs are a self-inflicted type of uncertainty,” said Tadd Nicholson, executive director of the Ohio Corn & Wheat Growers Association. “Our farmers are patriots…but there is a point where you realize there has to be a better way. There has to be another tool in the toolbox besides tariffs.”

“Farmers are good at dealing with uncertainty from the weather to crop prices and have tools to mitigate those losses,” Nicholson said. “But these tariffs are something different, unexpected and come at a time when what they really need is hope.”

At the event, Tariffs Hurt the Heartland released new data on the cost of tariffs to Ohio businesses and consumers. The organization also shared a recent study that found a tariff increase on $200 billion of goods to 25 percent would result in over 29,000 job losses in Ohio.

The participants at the event included:

  • Ed Brzytwa, Director, International Trade, American Chemistry Council
  • Mark Fisher, President and CEO, Council of the Great Lakes Region
  • Tom Lix, Founder and CEO, Cleveland Whiskey
  • Ann Wilson, Senior Vice President, Government Affairs, Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association
  • Tadd Nicholson, Executive Director, Ohio Corn & Wheat Growers Association
  • Angela Marshall Hofmann, Co-Founder, Farmers for Free Trade

The information shared by the group is based on a study that may be accessed here.

Andrea Lee