China-US trade row sounds sour note for US music students

By Chu Daye Source:Global Times Published: 2018/7/12 21:23:40

Many face higher costs, fewer choice for instruments


 

National Association of Music Merchants showcases the latest music industry trends at an exhibition center in California in January. Photo: IC



A full-blown trade row between China and the US could lead to US consumers facing higher prices for musical instruments. In the case of guitars, the potential price hike could exceed 10 percent, industry insiders said.

Zhong Wenhui, a manager at Huizhou Deshang Musical Instrument Co, told the Global Times on Thursday that if the US really slaps 10 percent tariffs on an extra $200 billion worth of Chinese imports, which could include musical instruments, US consumers are likely to face a price hike of more than 10 percent for the guitars they buy.

The Trump administration unveiled the plan on Tuesday, after an initial round of duties on $34 billion worth of Chinese goods last week.

China matched the move with its own tariffs for the same amount of US goods and said it will be forced to take necessary countermeasures, as always.

Should the trade row escalate, the affected areas could expand from the current automotive and agriculture industries to other sectors, the musical instrument sector possibly being one of them. China is a world factory for musical instruments, especially affordable ones.

"China mainly produces musical instruments for the US student market. The quality of the instruments has gone up significantly in the past decade or two, and Chinese-made violins, for example, are almost always the first ones that students would buy," a US musician, who declined to be identified, told the Global Times on Thursday.

"Increasingly, the first instrument of a clarinetist, trombonist, or anyone else in a high school band would come from China," the person said.

Zhong's company, which is based in Huizhou, South China's Guangdong Province, has monthly revenue of about 3 million yuan ($450,000).

The city, which is a major production base for guitars, turns out 50,000 guitars and 250,000 ukuleles each month. The city produces around half of the world's guitars, according to Zhong.

The market for a lot of Chinese instruments is for people who are extremely price-sensitive, like students. If you want a student guitar, it probably comes from China anyways," the US musician said, noting that a 10 percent tariff on Chinese exports to the US would have an impact on hundreds of thousands of US music students and beginners.

However, "for violins, cellos, and concert instruments, the Chinese makers are already quite good and dominate the market at a price no one can beat," and finding alternatives could be difficult, the person said.

Tariffs will eventually reach American customers. American consumers have been enjoying the benefit of reasonable quality daily necessities made in China at affordable prices, but as the trade war engulfs more industries and sectors, their living standards could drop," said Liu Jianying, an associate research fellow at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation.

According to industry portal exound.com, the musical instrument sector in the US was worth $7.4 billion in 2017, and fretted instruments such as guitars accounted for 26.2 percent of the industry.

China, Indonesia and Mexico are the top three exporters to the US, which imported 1.51 million guitars in 2017. Two-thirds of its imports are from China, whose products boast a price advantage that even beats the Mexican products with their lower transportation costs.

Most of China's exports are mid- to low-end guitars that sell for less than $299 in the US, according to the report, citing industry data.
Newspaper headline: Trade row sounds sour note for US music students


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