Chinese tariffs target US pork, sparkling wine, fruit ... and Hawaii mac nuts

WAIMEA, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - Two of the world's biggest economies are on the brink of an all-out trade war. And Hawaii's mac nuts could get stuck in the middle.

China responded Monday to new U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum with taxes on a host of U.S. products, including macadamia nuts grown in Hawaii.

The news sent the stock markets tumbling, and spurred lots of concern among U.S. manufacturers.

Jeff Clark, president of Hamakua Macadamia Nut Co., Inc., said the impact of new tariffs is still unknown.

One thing is for certain: "It's absolutely something everyone is talking about."

Hamakua Macadamia Nut on the Big Island is a nut processor; it has its own farms and buys from over 150 others.

The company does not sell directly to China, but Clark says the new tariffs could still impact the industry — and change the demand for macadamia nuts grown in Hawaii.

"Basically, if you weren't able to sell into China you would have to sell your products locally, which would flood the market with more nuts," he said, adding that there's only so much demand domestically. Too much supply "could end up lowering prices for nuts."

China targeted about $3 billion in U.S. products Monday, which amounts to barely 2 percent of goods that America exports to China.

Still, many in Hawaii fear the tariffs could disproportionately impact the islands in negative ways.

That's because China is the second largest export partner for Hawaii.

"The impact might be on the $9.4 million export of fruit and nuts, which are likely produced in Hawaii," said Christine Hirasa, special adviser at the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

She points out that most of the exports to China from Hawaii are merchandise that Hawaii imported from the mainland U.S.

For example, the largest exports from Hawaii to China in 2017 were fuel and oil, and the second largest was aircraft parts.

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