Oh, no! Not the geoducks!

I really don’t understand the logic of Trump’s trade war. Throwing up trade barriers might be a great idea if you’re trying to build up an internal industry in a relatively undeveloped economy, but the US has a mature economy. I could sort of see it if we were looking at how our homegrown semiconductor manufactory had declined and moved to Asia, and we wanted to build it back up, but that’s not what we’re doing: Trump seems to think we need to grow our coal and oil industry. Is our future tied to work that doesn’t require much education or deep, complicated infrastructure? It’s looking backwards.

But I’m not an economist. Feel free to explain the logic here, if there is any.

Also, now that the Chinese trade retaliation has kicked in, it seems to be having all kinds of unexpected side effects…like on the geoducks. The Washington state geoduck harvest is in trouble!

The People’s Republic of China announced last month a 25 percent tariff on American seafood products, including geoduck, in response to tariffs instituted by The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. China’s announcement that the tariffs would take effect July 6 came shortly after a May 30 auction by DNR, which awarded eight companies the rights to harvest wild geoduck from tracts in Puget Sound between July 3 and Sept. 28, 2018.

DNR auctions the right to harvest geoduck from state-owned aquatic lands four times a year, generating more than $21 million annually. That money is used to restore and enhance Washington’s aquatic lands. The May 30 auction generated $5,491,256.

To minimize the impacts from the tariffs on Washington’s geoduck industry, DNR notified successful bidders on June 26 they may be entitled to refunds if the tariffs hurt geoduck sales.

This is a big business, and it’s focused largely on Asian markets.

According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, the U.S. Customs counted over five million kilograms of geoduck leaving Washington last year, for a total of $75.8 million in geoduck exports. Of that amount, $69.5 million were made in shipments to China and Vietnam alone. Increasing demand has encouraged shellfish farmers to pressure the state to expand access to geoduck beds.

Meat from a geoduck is considered a delicacy in China and it can be sold for around $100 per pound in foreign markets. Stateside, companies bid hundreds of thousands of dollars to gain access to plots of land for harvesting.

On the bright side, this ought to have some positive environmental benefits — less commercial mollusc murder. But our current administration doesn’t exactly have a reputation for caring about the environment. It does have a reputation of supporting business interests uber alles, but this kind of decision actively harms capitalist exploitation. Somebody explain this to me, because it all sounds stupid and backwards and destructive of any principles this Republican fascism might have.

Maybe the simplest explanation is that they don’t have any principles.


  1. says

    It seems to me that the simplest explanation is that they’re acting like they want to destroy America’s international relations and standing because that’s what they want to do. That was the concern about Trump/Russia from day one – that Putin’s goal is to make his country “best” by making everywhere else worse.

  2. cartomancer says

    I had no idea these things existed. I am finding it increasingly difficult to contemplate the economics and politics, because I am too busy sniggering at how much they look like penises.

    How do mollusc scientists get any work done at all?

  3. voyager says

    There was an article in The Globe and Mail yesterday about Canadian attitudes to the U.S. trade wars and it seems that the vast majority of us have decided to voluntarily stop buying American goods and are avoiding travel to your wonderfully xenophobic country. I have a friend who travels a lot and she is refusing any flights that route her through the U.S. Everyone I know is reading labels and refusing to buy American products. Is that what you guys call “winning bigly”?

  4. rcs619 says

    The main issue here is that Trump doesn’t know anything about international trade. He barely knows anything about real-estate, and even then he’s gone bankrupt three times. So he’s surrounded himself with a bunch of protectionists, advising him about a subject he doesn’t understand. Of course he’s doing to do stupid things that only a niche audience will approve of.

    Unfortunately, it’s a lose-lose no matter what he does with the current shape of US capitalism. If you do nothing, they keep shifting jobs overseas because it costs too much to actually treat your employees like humans. If you raise a bunch of taxes and tariffs, they still shift jobs overseas, since doing business with the US just got a lot more inconvenient. Once companies were allowed to go multinational, that was it. All those unions and workers’ rights reforms don’t mean as much when they can just go somewhere it’s legal to treat your workers like animals. It’s going to take a pretty huge economic restructuring to reign them back in.

    Some jobs will never come back to the US (and when automation really takes off, they’ll never come back to human workers). We can either keep desperately trying to force them back, or we can get some kind of national re-education program going to get these people re-trained into a more viable profession. Coal workers, automotive and factory workers, those are hard-working folks. They just need direction, and opportunity.

  5. blf says

    Whew ! For a moment there, I thought the threat was to razor clam — which, locally, a fishmonger has started to (occasionally) stock. Delicious ! (There are, according to a friend in the restaurant trade, almost certainly grown locally, probably near Perpignan.)


    Paul Krugman has long been making the case that hair furor and his dalekocracy have absolutely no clew what they are doing. Two recent examples, Trump’s Taking Us From Temper Tantrum to Trade War:

    The US is now behaving in ways that could all too easily lead to a breakdown of the whole trading system and a drastic, disruptive reduction in world trade.

    Yet Trump appears to believe that the whole world will bow down to American economic power and his deal-making prowess. Every country is calling every day, saying, ‘Let’s make a deal’ on trade, he told Fox News.

    Of course, he also declared that the head of US Steel called to tell him that the company was opening six new facilities; it isn’t, and the conversation apparently never happened.

    So we’re heading into a trade war, and it’s hard to see how the escalation ends. After all, foreign governments literally can’t give Trump what he wants, because he wants them to stop doing things they aren’t actually doing.

    […] Another administration might look at foreign retaliation, industry protests and stories about jobs lost due to its tariffs and consider the possibility that it’s on the wrong path. This administration? Never.

    [… T]here are no grown-ups in this administration, which basically makes policy by temper tantrum. A full-blown trade war looks all too possible; in fact, it may already have begun.

    And, Trump Versus the Hog-Maker:

    […] I think the Harley[-Davidson] story is one of those anecdotes that tells us a lot. It’s an early example of the incentives created by the looming Trumpian trade war, which will hurt many more American companies and workers than Trump or the people around him seem to realize. It’s an indication of the hysterical reactions we can expect from the Trump crew as the downsides of their policies start to become apparent — hysteria that other countries will surely see as evidence of Trump’s fundamental weakness.

    [… W]hat Trump’s alleged experts have to say about the controversy offers fresh confirmation that nobody in the administration has the slightest idea what he or she is doing.

    […] Harley’s move is exactly what you’d expect to see given Trump policies and the foreign response.

    But while it’s what you’d expect to see, and what I’d expect to see, it’s apparently not what Trump expected to see. His view seems to be that since he schmoozed with the company’s executives and gave its stockholders a big tax cut, Harley owes him personal fealty and shouldn’t respond to the incentives his policies have created. And he also appears to believe that he has the right to deal out personal punishment to companies that displease him. Rule of law? What’s that?

    [… W]hat do Trump’s economists have to say about all of this? One answer is, what economists? There are hardly any left in the administration. […]

    [… T]he Harley incident reveals the pervasive cluelessness behind the administration’s signature economic policy. […]

    And so on. As has been repeatedly pointed out, hair furor sees the economy — and quite possibly the entire world — as a zero-sum game, with “winners” (all rent-seekers) and “losers”. Since that viewpoint is seriously seriously flawed from the get-go, it’s no surprise he and his DavrosPutin sidekicks are attempting to do supremely stooopid things.

  6. jerthebarbarian says

    But I’m not an economist.

    Neither is Trump. Nor are any of the people he listens to from what I can tell.

    It’s hard to tell if, as @1 suggests Trump is a compromised person working for another country, or if @2 suggests that Trump is just a dumb person who now gets to put his dumb ideas in action. It’s hard to tell because the outcomes of both of those scenarios are pretty much the same – getting a real dummy into power in your enemy’s government is almost as good as getting your own agent in the same position.

    Personally I suspect that Trump is just an ignorant jackass who thinks he’s a genius and has surrounded himself with yes-men who validate whatever he says and with advisers who are as ignorant as he is. He’s reminds me pretty much exactly of some of my right-wing college educated neighbors and relatives – they think they’re informed on every topic imaginable and have an opinion on everything, but I know that in the areas that I’m actually informed in that their opinions just make no sense and that they don’t have all of the facts.

    I also think that Trump is a terrible negotiator and his history suggests that he has only one tool in his toolbox to get what he wants – bullying. He also doesn’t seem to believe in win-win scenarios – it seems like he thinks that if an agreement is win-win then you’re a loser and you should negotiate for more so it’s clear that the other party has lost. I’m pretty sure that’s how he ran himself into multiple bankruptcies over the years, but I’m also pretty sure that’s how he views our foreign policy – if the other party is getting anything good out of the deal, then it’s a bad deal and you should tear it up and make them give you more.

  7. raven says

    Trump and his quack advisers have also never heard of history.
    We had a huge trade war back in the Hoover era.
    The Smoot Hawley tariff act raised tariffs on most trade.
    It was a disaster.
    It didn’t cause the Great Depression but it certainly made it worse.
    It was repealed by Roosevelt as part of his fix it plans to get out of the Depression.

  8. says

    Though bullying is certainly a major part of his identity, and he seems to disdain Americans only slightly less than anyone else on earth who’s not an authoritarian strongman, I don’t think Trump’s acts are completely random. Has anything he’s ever done actually hurt Putin’s interests? His motto, and the GOP’s, seems to be a paraphrase of Molly Ivins: “You gotta dance with them that bought ya.”

  9. rayceeya says

    Personally I’m much more concerned about garbage. We used to send a massive percentage of our trash to China. Specifically e-waste, and plastics. With the new trade war going on, China doesn’t want our trash any more. Can’t say I blame them. As a result massive stockpiles of recyclables are piling up with no place to go. At my work we have a small mountain of carefully separated nylon banding and PET film plastic that can’t be recycled any more. We want to do the right thing but in the end I think it’s all going to a land fill.

    That said, I do have one solution. Simply put, we start boxing our recyclable trash and shipping it via USPS straight to Mar A Lago. In the words of my old boss, “Put the garbage in the garbage can”. I like to think of it as a physically real ddos attack. A few thousand people shipping a 5-10 lbs of trash to the same address on a weekly basis would make one hell of a statement. I’m fairly certain it’s not illegal either. Also it would help the USPS (which I consider one of the great public goods) to stay in business.

    One good way to add the icing on the cake would be to use the address of another Trump property as a return address so even if they “RTS” it they still aren’t getting rid of it. This might be slightly illegal, I’m not sure. Either way, the idea of burying Trump’s favorite golf course under a mountain of garbage really appeals to me.

    So there you go, we hurt trump, help the USPS and get rid of our garbage. Sounds like a win/win to me.

  10. blf says

    With the new trade war going on, China doesn’t want our trash any more.

    Minor correction: Big China’s ban on importing recyclable waste started at the end of last year, and has nothing to do with the current trade war.

  11. unclefrogy says

    I doubt that trump is actually an agent of Putin’s. He trump is not someone who would have any loyalty and is not someone who you could trust to do anything other than follow what he thinks is in his best interest, How ever as has been stated he does not need to be an agent of the Russians to do what in the end is good for them. He is doing everything to disrupt all of the alliances and agreements that we have developed over the years to insure peaceful cooperation and therefore prosperity world wide. He is being what he claimed or implied he would be a disruptive element. He seems to share with most idea-logs and believers whether conservative or liberal a profound inability to accept reality never questioning what the real nature of the world and the processes of it are but instead push ahead stubbornly. Putin’s goal is simpler and much easier simply disruption which if he can maintain power in Russia is all he needs to improve Russia’s position in the world and it’s freedom of action. The way he is going about it by such minimal involvement makes him look somewhat innocent compared to the asshole doing the most disruptive crap.
    he is still playing with fire and fire is hard to control in the wild.
    uncle frogy

  12. coragyps says

    Ooh, Rayceeya! I really like that! Clean, non-contagious recyclables with no lithium batteries would be lovely. Except for the poor schlub that has to receive all the packages, of course. Something makes me think that “Personal and Confidential” on the box might not be enough to get DT in the loop.

  13. mnb0 says

    “I really don’t understand the logic of Trump’s trade war.”
    Really? It’s the same as always – it’s about The Donald’s ego.
    What we have is a classic example of a superpower on the decline under incompetent leadership, accelerating that decline.

    @4: “Unfortunately, it’s a lose-lose ”
    Incorrect. India is already taking the benefits.

  14. jrkrideau says

    @3 voyager

    While I am not refusing to buy US products, I carefully search for alternatives and consider if it is possible modify/postpone things until I do find something.
    Let’s say the USA is my least preferred source at the moment.

    To the general reader, Canada’s countervailing tariffs are apparently being carefully targeted to hit Trump supporters by which I think the Canadian Gov’t means Republican held districts or states. That is probably why US whiskeys are targetted but not US wines.

    The ban on ketchup, though, may be a bit of a payback on an old grudge. https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/heinz-french-s-ketchup-trade-war-tariffs-1.4728691

  15. OptimalCynic says

    What China is doing isn’t all that smart either. Retaliatory tariffs are like noting that another nation is turning away imports and getting back at them by dumping rocks in your own harbours.

  16. says

    One disturbing idea I have seen floated is that this is all part of a plan to drive things even worse, before coming up with a brand spanking new “Marshal Plan”, to save the middle class, al la the pandering done to the same by a certain WII dictator, in his rise to power. But, this presumes that a) the greedy bastards in congress give a damn about the middle class, beyond using their fear to get elected (and without that fear…), and b) Trump is actually smart enough to even do such a thing (especially without screwing it up).

    I mean, seriously, there is a book I recently read, “I am not the chosen one.”, in which the protagonist is a fairly normal, not really super powered, beyond healing sort of faster than normal, and being able to change the color of her nails and hair, restaurant worker, who just happens to look *exactly* like the cities superman like female hero. So, of course, every bloody villain keeps showing up to confront her “secret identity” and defeat her in public, and every time they get their asses handed to them, by this total norm, because one of her past times is reading a website called “lame villain powers”, which lists every known flaw in the powers of every single known villain. Trump, if he was in a comic as a villain, would including “multiple entries” on that website.

    The only thing he, or the rest of them, are likely to ever come up with is the “Marshmallow Plan”, and inevitably go up in flames, when more and more people realize they had no intention of ever sharing the marshmallows.

  17. says

    It wouldn’t matter if Trump’s “Marshmallow Plan” was a burn. His suckers would push aside anyone trying to help them and say, “Please, Sir, can we have s’more?”