American shoppers complain about new tariffs on Chinese goods: importer of garlic, ginger
US consumers carry the cost of Trump’s trade war
Published: Sep 11, 2019 06:48 PM

Photo: VCG

A 20 to 30-percent rise in the price of basic cooking ingredients like garlic and ginger across the US, which stemmed from the administration's trade frictions with China, has garnered complaints and doubt about the government's trade policy, a garlic and ginger importer told the Xinhua News Agency recently.

Most garlic and ginger sold in the US market come from China. People have no choice but to use this Chinese produce, though it is more expensive, said Nick Wang, who imports garlic and ginger from East China's Shandong Province and once occupied a 70-percent market share in the US.

Garlic and ginger are among the Chinese goods listed by the US government in 2018 and 2019 for heavier import tariffs. As they are daily essentials for cooking, displeasure arose from a wider field.

"The importer, wholesaler and retailer won't gulp the extra tariffs. They channel them to the consumers. It is the consumers who pay in accordance with the padded price tag eventually," said Wang.

Zhang, who declined to give his full name, purchases produce for his company's dining hall once or twice a week. The price increase he has experienced is steep.

A can of peeled garlic, weighing 5 pounds (2.3 kg), is now sold at the wholesale market for around $12, compared with $6 a year ago. A carton of ginger is worth $18, while it cost just $12 in the past, he explained.

"Other produce like Chinese cabbage is also much more expensive. The problem is that my budget is still the same as before," said Zhang.

At one supermarket beside the Queens Boulevard in New York, 10 heads of garlic are sold for $3.50 and ginger is billed at $1.99 per pound (about 4.5 kg).

Supermarket staff admitted that the price tags have changed several times to accommodate the tariff increases that have already accumulated to 20 to 30 percent.

At another supermarket in the Elmhurst neighborhood of New York, ginger is the same price but garlic is 4 cents higher at $1.79 for 5 heads. One shopper had noticed the change over a period of time.

"But you must know it is several dimes for one vegetable. Each day we have to eat many kinds of food. Several dimes for one type of food means several hundred dollars for a family for one year, maybe topping a thousand dollars for some families," said the shopper, who didn't give her full name.

Consumers swallow bitter fruit

Extra tariffs befell Chinese garlic last year, and ginger in early September. Since then, Wang has overheard frequent complaints among customers at the supermarkets where his imported products are sold.

"[The tariff row] is a bully in trade that has molded the current pattern: more tariffs, higher prices, once and for all. Unfortunately, and probably unexpectedly for the US government, all the bitter fruit has to be swallowed by the American consumers," said Wang, who came to the US over 20 years ago.

"Trade should be conducted in its own way. Reciprocity and equality are its bases. However, if one is self-centered and always obsessed with maintaining his No. 1 status by playing the trade card, then his trade policy is improperly utilized, bent and distorted," said Wang.

The unnamed shopper shares a similar opinion with the United States Chamber of Commerce (USCC), the largest US business lobby group, which expressed its view in a report on Friday.

43 percent of Fortune 500 firms - up from 30 percent at the start of the year - have shown concern over US President Donald Trump's tariff battle with China; tariffs may have reached a point where they seriously hurt companies, consumers and the wider economy, said the report.

"Tariffs imposed on imports from our biggest trading partners, especially China, may be reaching a tipping point where they have a serious impact on companies, consumers, and the wider economy," wrote Thaddeus Swanek, senior writer and editor with the USCC strategic communications team.

To make things worse, tariffs are weapons wielded by the US government not only against China, but also against its traditional allies like Canada and Mexico, said Wang.

As it is US buyers that pay the price for their government's "erratic" actions, and as complaints pile up about the US' trade decisions, Wang believes that the current policy of repeatedly imposing tariffs on Chinese goods in order to contain China will not endure.

When it is proven that it will get nowhere in the end, it will end, he added.

USCC chief executive Tom Donohue holds the same stance, recently writing in The Washington Post that, "For the Trump administration's part, the escalation of trade tensions with China must come to an end."