As Air Force One touches down for President Trump’s rally in North Carolina, our state’s unemployment rate will be at a decade-low of 3.3 percent. After eight years of anemic economic growth, the president added 220,000 new jobs to our economy. He inherited a 5 percent unemployment rate in our state when he was elected and lowered it in less time than his predecessor, proving that free-market policies work.
This isn’t a surprise. I knew we would see a better economy when I voted for the president in 2016, after he vowed to lower taxes and end job-killing regulations for North Carolinians. As important, he pledged to put an end to China’s unfair market practices, which includes currency manipulation and cyber espionage to steal proprietary information from American companies. But the trade war has now cast a shadow over North Carolina’s economy—and it has many voters here worried. They support the administration’s pressure on China, but tariffs have caused uncertainty for the future of our economy and for the tens of thousands of workers whose jobs depend on free trade.
I want to see the president in the White House for another four years—and I’ve been working hard to ensure it happens—but tariffs are threatening the economic progress President Trump has made in North Carolina. Tariffs are taxes that working families and local companies have to pay, raising prices and the cost of doing business in our state. Tariffs take money out of our pockets, and make our state less competitive. So far, North Carolina’s businesses and working families have paid $1.2 billion in additional tariffs, higher than what other states have had to pay. We’re disproportionately affected by the trade war. China is one of our largest export markets purchasing billions of dollars worth of goods.
Among them is tobacco, a pillar of our state’s economy. North Carolina leads the country as the largest exporter and producer of tobacco, but the industry is now struggling because of tariffs. Before the trade war, China purchased 80 million pounds of tobacco from our state alone. Last year, they purchased virtually none, leaving many farmers, whose livelihoods depend on trade with China, at a loss. In fact, one local tobacco farmer lost $100,000 in 2019. And worse, not only have their exports plummeted, tobacco farmers can’t receive the same financial help as those who grow other crops, like soybeans and corn. Federal law prohibits help to them.
North Carolinians love their country and are willing to bite the bullet to help stop China’s trade abuses. But a recent study shows that tariffs are negatively impacting American families. The National Bureau of Economic Research found that Americans are footing 100 percent of the bill, and JP Morgan reported recently that working families could soon be paying $1,500 because of tariffs. China, meanwhile, the target of the trade war, doesn’t have to shed a dime.
There are alternative policies the president can use to curb China’s rise that don’t put Americans at risk, like sanctioning companies in China that have hacked American companies. Targeted solutions would be more effective than broad tariffs.
Katlyn Batts is the Chairwoman of the Wingate University College Republicans and an employee of the Jesse Helms Center.