How a bike importer and a soybean farmer in the U.S. are hurt by the US-China trade dispute

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Port of Long Beach, May 2007. Credit: Scott Lederer/CC BY-SA 2.0.

President Trump on Friday falsely asserted that China will pay the tariffs he slapped on Chinese goods coming into the United States. Today he tweeted:

China retaliated today, announcing $60 billion worth of tariffs on American goods, including a lot of agricultural products like soybeans.

Press Play catches up with people on both sides of the trade dispute who are affected by the tariffs: soybean farmer/exporter Bret Davis, and bike importer Michael Fishman.

Bret Davis, fourth generation soybean farmer in Delaware, Ohio


Bret Davis. Credit: American Soybean Association.

Bret Davis tells Press Play, “Before this started, we as American soybean growers exported one-third or one out of every three rows of the soybeans that we grow to China. And since we've had the tariffs put on, those exports have gone to about zero.”

He adds that a year ago, he sold soybeans for $10.30 a bushel. Today, it’s $7.20 a bushel.

Davis also has competition from South America, which produces a lot of soybeans. He says China is buying everything they can from South America, which leaves soybeans sitting in America unsold.

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Davis’ soybean farm. Photo courtesy of Bret Davis. 

“It affects not just the farmers, but affects all rural America that we don't have a place to sell soybeans, and to make a profit, and to pay our bills… Also we spend money in grocery stores, and repair stores, and hardware stores. We support our kids’ and grandkids’ ball teams and things like that. And so you talk about putting the hit on the rural economy -- this affects all of middle America,” he says.

Davis says even before these tariffs went into effect, income for American farmers had dropped 50% in the last six years. “It's kind of a double whammy. We're hitting low prices, we’ve got a lot of carryover that we can’t have a quick sell to China or other countries, even though we worked every day on trying to sell our goods all over the world.”

Davis, who voted for Trump in 2016, says whether or not he’ll vote to reelect Trump in 2020 depends on what happens to trade policy.

Michael Fishman, President of Pure Cycles in Burbank, Calif.

Michael Fishman Pure Cycles.jpg
Michael Fishman (center) at Pure Cycles. Photo courtesy of Fishman.

Michael Fishman imports bikes and bike parts from China. He tells Press Play that he has $200,000 worth of bike parts coming from China right now, and was expecting to pay $30,000 in duties. Now that fee has increased to $50,000.

Fishman says he might have to raise prices for the second time this year. “It’s gonna be our customers who are going to be paying for this at the end of the day. But in the short term, it’s going to be us. Because I can't just run a business where my price is going up and down, and up and down. There's got to be some consistency to it.”

Fishman says he’s felt the short-term effects of the tariffs, but that in a global business like his, he sees opportunities in other Asian countries. “Up to this point, over 90% of all people who are importing bikes into the U.S. are importing from China. So all of these manufacturers in China, when they started hearing this news of these tariffs last year, quickly started opening up other manufacturing plants in Asia. Whether that's Cambodia, or Vietnam, or people going to Taiwan or even India, there’s been a lot of options that have been created… So in the long term, everyone's going to be making their bikes outside of China if these tariffs continue.”

--Written by Amy Ta, produced by Adriana Cargill

Credits

Guests:
Bret Davis - American Soybean Association, Michael Fishman - Pure Cycle Bicycles

Host:
Madeleine Brand

Producers:
Sarah Sweeney, Michell Eloy, Yael Even Or, Amy Ta, Alexandra Sif Tryggvadottir, Rosalie Atkinson, Adriana Cargill, Nihar Patel