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Asia Minute: Could Hawai‘i be a Target for Chinese Trade Sanctions?


President Trump is in Europe this week, but on the policy front it’s been another week of trade talk about China. His administration has listed another 200-billion dollars of Chinese goods that could be subject to tariffs. So far, most of this dispute has not directly touched Hawaii—but that could change.

Targets for Chinese trade retaliation have so far included items like soy beans from Iowa, bourbon from Kentucky, wine from California.

Seven states export more than a billion dollars of products to China each year. According to Commerce Department figures, Hawaii exported about 125 million dollars’ worth of products to China last year.

That’s less than any other state except Wyoming and North and South Dakota.

A more serious impact on Hawaii could come from a targeting of the service sector of the economy — because that could include tourism. But even if China would create some sort of extra tax on outbound tourists or those coming to the U.S., that still would effect a relatively small number of visitors to Hawai‘i.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority says about 65,000 Chinese visited the state through the first five months of the year. That’s down about four-percent from a year ago. And as a point of comparison, it’s about half the number of visitors from Australia.

Credit jdnx / Flickr

Another trade weapon the Trump Administration could wield would be restrictions on Chinese investment in the United States — potentially including luxury condos and other Hawaii real estate.

But for now, any direct impact on Hawaii from the Chinese trade dispute depends mostly on the prospect of escalation on both sides of the Pacific.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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