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Letter to the Hon. Robert Lighthizer, United States Trade Reprentative - McMorris Rodgers Joins Letter with Washington Delegation Urging Administration to Address Tariff Retaliation


Dear Ambassador Lighthizer,

As representatives of Washington State, we are hearing increasing concerns from our constituents about the impact of retaliatory actions by our trading partners on Washington communities stemming from the imposition of the Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum. The impact of these retaliatory actions on Washington's thriving agricultural industry would not only significantly affect the agricultural industry, but also workers, families, and small businesses throughout the state. We urge the Administration to make it a priority to negotiate a solution that shields our specialty crop growers from retaliatory actions in the form of tariffs or other barriers to trade. With cherry harvest beginning in the Pacific Northwest, time is of the essence for our growers.

On April 2nd, China responded to the Section 232 tariffs with a 15 percent tariff on a number of items, including apples, pears, cherries, and wine. For Pacific Northwest cherries, China is the number one export destination, with more than ten percent of last year's crop valued at approximately $130 million having been shipped to China. Last season, China was the fifth largest market for apples, worth approximately $45-50 million, and it continues to be an important market for pears as well. If these tariffs remain in place, the financial impact to Washington's growers will be very harmful, especially for cherries as the price would be depressed across the board as shippers seek alternative markets for such significant volume. This challenge is growing as additional trading partners take actions to restrict access to export markets, leaving our exporters with fewer markets for their high-quality agricultural products.

On May 28th, India notified the World Trade Organization that it plans before June 21st to raise its tariff on apples from the already very high level of 50 percent to 80 percent. India describes this increased tariff as retaliation for the U.S. Section 232 tariffs on aluminum and steel. In our view, India, like China and other countries, is abusing WTO rules by unilaterally retaliating in this way without authorization, and we urge you to confront such abuses.

As the second largest market-to-date this season, an eighty percent tariff on apples entering India would have a grave impact on Washington's growers. For this season, more than 7.7 million boxes -- valued at more than $118.3 million -- have been shipped to India. We understand that around one million cartons of apples are currently on container ships en route to India. It is worth noting that this action will have a disproportionately high impact on the growers of Red Delicious -- which has composed nearly 90 percent of Washington's apple exports to India this season. India is the number one market for Washington's Red Delicious apples this season. With so much at stake, we urge the Administration to make it a priority to prevent this additional thirty percent tariff from going into effect.

On June 5th, in response to the Administration's decision to impose steel and aluminum tariffs on several key allies, including Mexico, Mexico announced it will impose tariffs on a range of U.S. agricultural products, including potatoes and apples. Last year, Washington State potato growers exported over $37 million in frozen potatoes to Mexico. And as the top export destination for apples, valued at approximately $215 million last season, Mexico is currently the second largest market for Washington's Red Delicious apples. In fact, this season, Washington's apple growers have shipped over 10 million cartons of apples to Mexico, making up 27 percent of apple exports.

As our trading partners take steps to restrict their markets to American exports, we urge the Administration to address these retaliatory actions that are harming our communities, constituencies, and local economies.