US-China trade war costs billions of dollars for both sides

Big US automakers have said higher tariffs will result in a hit to profits of about $1 billion this year. (Reuters)
Updated 29 December 2018
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US-China trade war costs billions of dollars for both sides

CHICAGO: The US-China trade war resulted in billions of dollars of losses for both sides in 2018, hitting industries including autos, technology — and above all, agriculture.
Broad pain from trade tariffs outlined by several economists shows that, while specialized industries, such as US soybean crushing, benefited from the dispute, it had an overall detrimental impact on both of the world’s two largest economies.

The losses may give US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, motivation to resolve their trade differences before a March 2 deadline.

The US and Chinese economies each lose about $2.9 billion annually due to Beijing’s tariffs on soybeans, corn, wheat and sorghum alone, said Purdue University agricultural economist Wally Tyner.

Disrupted agricultural trade hurt both sides particularly hard because China is the world’s biggest soybean importer and last year relied on the US for $12 billion worth of the oilseed.

China has mostly been buying soy from Brazil since imposing a 25 percent tariff on American soybeans in July in retaliation for US tariffs on Chinese goods. The surge in demand pushed Brazilian soy premiums to a record over US soy futures in Chicago, in an example of the trade war reducing sales for US exporters and raising costs for Chinese importers.

“It’s something that’s crying for a resolution,” Tyner said. “It’s a lose-lose for both the United States and China.”

Total US agricultural export shipments to China for the first 10 months of 2018 fell by 42 percent from a year earlier to about $8.3 billion, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

The most actively traded soybean futures contract averaged $8.75 per bushel from July to December 2018, down from an average of $9.76 during the same period a year earlier. As of Dec. 28, futures in the last month of the year were averaging $8.95-1/2 a bushel. That was down from $9.61-3/4 for all of December last year.

To compensate suffering farmers, the US government has allocated about $11 billion to direct payments and buying agricultural goods for government food programs.

In North Dakota, which exports crops to China through ports in the Pacific Northwest, soy farmers face at least $280 million in losses because of Beijing’s tariffs, said Mark Watne, president of the North Dakota Farmers Union.

It’s something that is crying our for a resolution. It’s a lose-lose for both the United States and China.

“You could almost put another $100 million on top of this because all commodity prices are down and that affects North Dakota farmers indirectly,” Watne said.

China’s tariffs improved margins for US soy crushers such as Archer Daniels Midland Co. by leaving plentiful supplies of cheap soybeans on the domestic market.

Chinese soybean mills, on the other hand, front-loaded soy purchases ahead of the tariffs. This led to an oversupply that reduced Chinese processing margins and led factories this summer to make the biggest cuts in years to the production of soymeal used to feed livestock.

China resumed purchases of US soybeans in early December following a trade truce agreed to by leaders from the two countries during G20 summit in Argentina. But Beijing kept its 25 percent tariffs on the oilseed from America, which effectively curbed commercial Chinese buying.

“With the tariffs, the beans can’t go into the commercial system,” said a manager at a Chinese feed producer, speaking on condition of anonymity. “The buying will have a very limited impact on the market.”

China also suffered as products such as phone batteries were hit by US tariffs, and customers began looking to buy elsewhere.

A study commissioned by the Consumer Technology Association showed US tariffs on imported Chinese products cost the technology industry an additional $1 billion per month.

The conflict also squeezed US retail, manufacturing and construction companies that had to pay more for metal and other goods.

The Big Three Detroit automakers — General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles — have each said higher tariff costs will result in a hit to profits of about $1 billion this year. Ford and Fiat expect a similar hit in 2019. 


Google puts up $1B to ease housing headaches it helped cause

In this May 1, 2019, file photo, a woman walks past a Google sign in San Francisco. Google is making a $1 billion commitment to address the soaring price of housing in the San Francisco Bay Area, a problem that the internet company and its Silicon Valley peers helped create as the technology industry hired tens of thousands of high-paid workers. (AP)
Updated 45 min 54 sec ago
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Google puts up $1B to ease housing headaches it helped cause

  • A report by Working Partnerships called upon Google to build more than 17,000 homes in the area to help offset the anticipated price increases caused by the new campus

SAN FRANCISCO: Google is pouring $1 billion into easing the high-priced housing headaches that it and its Silicon Valley peers helped give the San Francisco Bay Area.
The pledge announced Tuesday by Google CEO Sundar Pichai consists of a $250 million investment fund and $750 million of company-owned land. It will be used to build at least 15,000 homes that will include low- and mid-income housing.
Google’s commitment eclipsed a recent $500 million pledge made by Microsoft to combat housing shortages in the Seattle area and a $500 million housing fund created by a consortium including Facebook.
Google is extending a helping hand as it draws up plans to expand into sprawling offices beyond its headquarters in Mountain View, California. That suburban city of roughly 80,000 people has been swamped with affluent tech workers since Google moved there shortly after its 1998 inception.
Since then, Google’s payroll has swelled from a few dozen workers to the more than 103,000 people now working for it and its corporate parent, Alphabet Inc. Nearly half of those workers are based in the Bay Area.
While Google has been expanding, so have a wide variety of other technology companies, including Apple, Facebook, Oracle, Salesforce and Netflix — all of whom also lavish their workers with six-figure salaries and stock options that can yield multimillion-dollar windfalls.
The high incomes have resulted in bidding wars for the limited supply of homes in the Bay Area that can only be afforded by the affluent, a group increasingly dominated by tech workers, while people employed in other lines of work struggle to make ends meet on more modest incomes.
That is making it impossible for people on the lower end of the economic spectrum to buy a home in the Bay Area, where a mid-priced house sold for $990,000 in April, according to the California Association of Realtors, a trade group. In 1999, a mid-priced home sold for $308,000.
It’s even worse in San Francisco, a city from which many tech workers ride company buses to the Silicon Valley suburbs. A mid-priced house in San Francisco sold for nearly $1.7 million in April, according to the realtors’ group, quadruple the price of 20 years ago.
Google’s next big project will be in the Bay Area’s most populous city, San Jose, where it plans to build a corporate campus consisting of offices and housing where 15,000 to 20,000 of its employees will work and live.
The project faced resistance from community activists worried about its effect on housing prices. Last week, a report by Working Partnerships called upon Google to build more than 17,000 homes in the area to help offset the anticipated price increases caused by the new campus. The report by the labor-union backed labor group envisions apartment rent increases of $235 million by 2030 if action isn’t taken.
“For several months, we have encouraged Google to make a bold commitment to address our region’s affordable housing challenge,” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said in a statement applauding the company’s $1 billion pledge.