How Tariffs May Affect the U.S. Midterm Elections

2 MINS READJun 7, 2018 | 22:31 GMT
This photograph shows a field of ginseng in Wisconsin.

More than 90 percent of U.S. ginseng, which has been hit with a 15 percent tariff by China, is grown in Wisconsin. Most of the U.S. ginseng crop is exported to China or Hong Kong.


Campaigning for November's U.S. midterm election is well underway, and all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 35 of the 100 Senate seats will be on the ballot. These graphics examine how the retaliatory tariffs implemented by China and other key trading partners — namely, Mexico — are likely to have an impact.

While U.S.-China trade negotiations are continuing, and some tariffs may be removed, the continuing uncertainty may influence the vote in regions of the United States with heavy agricultural production. The Chinese tariffs implemented in April and those still pending can be expected to hit a number of niche agricultural markets. And the economic effects could put the Republican incumbents in these districts at risk: Wisconsin's 7th Congressional District (ginseng and cranberries); North Carolina's 7th Congressional District (pork and tobacco); Iowa's 4th Congressional District (pork).

In 2016 Donald Trump won Wisconsin by less than 23,000 votes. The state's 7th Congressional District grows nearly all the ginseng produced in the United States, and it also has a high concentration of cranberry producers; both products were hit by 15 percent tariffs. While the district itself is more red than the state, Trump's narrow margin of victory and the role of agriculture in the state’s economy could be important for the midterms.

A chart shows the agricultural products affected by current and potential tariffs in North Carolina's 7th Congressional District

The North Carolina's 7th district and Iowa's 4th are probably less at risk than the Wisconsin's 7th because additional tariffs have yet to be placed on tobacco, and China represents a smaller percentage of the export market for both pork and tobacco. However, Mexico's recently announced 20 percent tariff on pork products in response to U.S. levies on steel and aluminum will place more strain on U.S. producers. Despite the tariffs, U.S. pork production has been surging, meaning that U.S. prices this year are expected to drop next year. The United States still remains competitive in China and probably could find alternative markets if needed. However, the tariffs by Mexico, which takes roughly a quarter of U.S. pork exports, will limit producers' options. In addition, one of the largest U.S. pork producers, Smithfield Foods, has extensive operations in North Carolina and is a subsidiary of China's WH Group. Because of this relationship, Smithfield could receive a tariff exemption.

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