Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts expressed deep concern on Monday over possible tit-for-tat tariffs between China and the United States, but is optimistic that a negotiated solution can be found.
The governor, a businessman-turned-politician, said that the tariffs proposed by the Trump administration against China are "certainly a cause for concern among farmers and ranchers".
Nebraska has been caught in the crossfire of a potential tariff war between the two countries, with Chinese retaliatory tariffs targeting a number of U.S. agriculture products following the U.S.' imposition of steel and aluminum tariffs in the name of national security and a threat to slap tariffs on $150 billion in Chinese imports under Section 301 of U.S. Trade Act of 1974.
"Agriculture is the largest industry in Nebraska. It's about 20 percent of the overall state economy, and one in four jobs in Nebraska is tied back to agriculture," Ricketts said on Monday.
He said there is concern when China is talking about potential tariffs and people in Nebraska are worried that something will happen with the tariffs. "That brings uncertainty," said Ricketts, who traveled to China in 2015 and 2016.
"Now the good news is we got time to work this out," said Ricketts, a Republican who became governor in 2015.
Noting that it's the beginning of the planting season, Ricketts said there is some time to conclude a trade negotiation with China.
"That's really what we are encouraging the administration to do. We want to get this trade negotiation done so we can continue to enjoy the market access in China and that mutually beneficial relationship through trade," he said.
Ricketts' talk came three days after a senior U.S. team led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin concluded two days of talks in Beijing on bilateral trade and investment issues.
The 53-year-old Ricketts, a part-owner of the Chicago Cubs baseball team and whose father Joe Ricketts is the founder of brokerage firm TD Ameritrade, said there are opportunities for Nebraska to further expand into the Chinese market, citing China's resumption last year of U.S. beef imports.
China lifted its ban on U.S. beef imports imposed about 14 years ago upon concern over mad cow disease. Nebraska is the top U.S. beef-exporting state and was the fifth-largest pork exporter in 2017.
China is Nebraska's second-largest goods-export market in 2017 after Canada and was its third-largest services-export market in 2016, trailing Canada and the United Kingdom. Oilseeds, grains and meat products are Nebraska's largest export items to China, according to a report by the U.S.-China Business Council on April 30.