Is US-China trade war causing misery for some Trump voters?

  • 30 Aug 2019

The ongoing economic row has reportedly hit most US farmers and manufacturers, many of whom are supporters of US President Donald Trump.

A rubber tire gantry operator climb steps to his cab at the start of his work shift at the Port of Savannah in Savannah, Ga on July 5, 2018. On July 6, the two countries imposed huge tariffs on each other’s goods. ( Stephen B. Morton / AP Archive )

Despite mounting criticism of the US-China trade war, the world's two biggest economies are yet to find a common path to realign their economic interests and end the diplomatic row.  

Although Trump's bullish stance against China is aimed at gratifying his conservative voter base, the trade war has contradictorily hit middle-income consumers and farmers, many of whom identify with his Make America Great Again (MAGA) slogan. 

While his trade war creates serious financial risks for his potential voters, Trump continues to invoke his rhetoric of protecting jobs in the US by turning the American market against overseas exporters. 

According to the US Commerce Department, American economic growth has slowed down in the second quarter as gross domestic product goes for a small but significant slide.

“It’s crushing the American farmer,” said Joe Biden, the former vice president, who is one of the Democrats' best hopes in the upcoming presidential elections, last week in Warren County, Iowa, in a stinging criticism of the president’s trade war.  

“How many farmers across this state, across this nation, have to face the prospect of losing everything, losing their farm because of these tariffs?” Biden asked. 

After Trump imposed high tariffs on Chinese imports, Beijing also raised tariffs on US imports. As a result, US farmers struggle to sell their crops to Chinese buyers.

US President Donald Trump shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka, western Japan on June 29, 2019.(AP Archive)

Agriculture is not the only sector impacted by the trade war. The US manufacturing industry is also affected. Both sides recently imposed new tariffs worth $75 billion, casting the net over various products ranging from electronics to apparel. 

Frustrated with the economic slump, some of Trump's own party members recently questioned the need to throw the markets into a downward spiral. 

Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania is one of the critics from the Republican Party. In the 2016 presidential elections, Trump won Toomey’s state, a predominantly blue state since the 1980s, although the victory was achieved with a slim margin. 

During his recent speech, Toomey pointed out that Pennslyvanian manufacturers are struggling to compete because Trump’s tariffs decrease their buying capability for parts they particularly need from overseas. 

“Tariffs are painful and they are a double-edged sword,” he said in a critical tone.

“Yes, it is a problem for China, but it is also a problem for us. We don’t know yet if it will all be worthwhile in the end,” the Republican senator added. 

Chinese magazines with front covers featuring Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump on trade war are placed for sale at a roadside bookstand in Hong Kong on July 4, 2019.(AP Archive)

Trump showed no mercy in his countercritcism. “So what does Pat Toomey want me to say, ‘Let me put my hands up, China, continue to rip me off,’” Trump told Fox News Radio.  

While the president’s trade war is a risky political bet, hurting farmers and manufacturers across the country, it still apparently resonates with a significant part of his conservative base. 

Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, supports the trade war, even though he represents Iowa, where farmers have fallen on hard times due to an unfriendly Chinese market, as Democrat hopeful Biden pointed out on his visit to the state.

“It’s been a turbulent year for farmers, from weather, drought, trade negotiations, low prices,” Biden said on Thursday. 

For the Republican senator, however, his constituents haven't reached to the political threshold where they would say: "I voted for Trump but I’m done with him now.”