Nearly 20 years ago, when fishermen were facing one of their worst periods of trying to make a living and shrimp from all over the world was flooding U.S. markets, tariffs became a common word of discussion.
A tariff, essentially, is a special tax levied on goods from other nations. They can be levied in several ways for different reasons. Many people who operate in the world of international trade will tell you that they don’t always accomplish what their supporters wish to see, and can often have adverse effects.
With shrimp fishers again in the lurch, the topic of tariffs has come up again. But there are already tariffs on some foreign shrimp, won after hard work and a lot of legal fees. They have done some good, stabilizing prices to some degree. But they are not the panacea some fishermen thought them to be.
Back when the tariff question came up a representative of the National Fisheries Institute, an organization closely aligned with importers, predicted a scenario.
Men and women in suits would come to Louisiana from Washignton. They would leave with a lot of money from the fishermen and processors, likely millions of dollars The fishermen might benefit for a while but not long.
That is exactly what happened.
One of the biggest problems concerning those tariffs is what happened to them. Initially the tariffs were according to law turned over to people in the industry. Processors could improve or rebuild plants. Fishermen could get needed repairs done for their boats. Families would have a little extra cash.
Such use of the tariff money was written into the law by the late Sen. Robert Byrd D- W. Va. But the World Trade Organization ruled that he provision was illegal according to its rules, and so it had to be abandoned. Some individuals and companies still get “Byrd money” but the end of the Byrd act majorly affected the effectiveness of the tariffs in terms of industry building and maintenance.
The talk of new tariffs for shrimp comes at a time when the current U.S. president has shocked the world with imposition of tariffs on our allies. The U.K. and Canada are among the nations now required to pay some tariffs. Other nations are subject to U.S. tariffs as well, and there is a lot of talk regarding a burgeoning trade war.
The tariffs, particularly those on steel, will have a major effect as well on local industries trying to climb out of near-failure.
Shipbuilders and rig-builders are just a few of the industry members who face heightened costs for steel because of tariffs. So far there is no clear individuation of how much local industry will be harmed because of the Trump tariffs. But the danger of bad news is very real.
Talking tough about bad deals and the character of competing national leaders may sound good on Fox. It doesn’t follow through that the action resulting from the talk is going to be any kind of a big help.
The President has had a difficult time settling in to the White House, although he appears to be learning how responsible moves can be made, and he hs done some good.
Those who support him - and that’s a lot of people in the Bayou Region, need to look closely at the effects of trade measure like the steel tariffs.
The ox that is gored may be their own.
It is possible in some other ways that there will be positive outcomes for those who create finished products. We are not experts in such matters and so can’t draw clear conclusions just yet. But everyone needs to watch carefully. If some of the trade decisions being made might do more bad than good for your business -- especially in terms of retaliation that may occur -- then your thoughts and concerns should be made known.
It is difficult to process the many complexities of world trade in general. When tariffs come unto the picture it’s harder. Let’s hope that change which may be afoot is coming from the best minds our nation can bring into the discussion, and not the most emotional minds and heart.