By Allissa Kline, originally published in Buffalo Business First on Oct 5, 2018, 12:25am.

Trump, tariffs and trade wars: Where are we headed?

Tariffs, Trump and trade wars – a trio of buzzwords for 2018. Since the start of the year, President Donald Trump’s administration imposed tariff after tariff on a number of imported goods.

In response, countries such as China, Canada and Turkey issued retaliatory tariffs on everything from soybeans and maple syrup to motorcycles and ballpoint pens.

In September, the trade war escalated when the United States slapped another $200 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods. The Chinese government in response said it would impose tariffs on $60 billion worth of U.S. goods.

And just this week, the administration announced a last-minute deal to save the North American Free Trade Agreement, the trilateral trade pact between the United States, Canada and Mexico. The new agreement – which was renamed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement – follows months of tense negotiations between the three countries.

There’s so much going on that Kathryn Bryk Friedman, adjunct professor at the University at Buffalo School of Law, finds herself constantly reviewing what to cover in the NAFTA class she teaches to second- and third-year law students.

“All of these things are shifting and changing,” said Friedman, managing partner of SAGE Law Firm Group PLLC in Buffalo. “I’m getting updates every day and every day things are different.”

All of that high-level back-and-forth is winding its way down to Western New York companies and business owners. 

Trade attorney Jon Yormick, special counsel at Phillips Lytle LLP in Buffalo, works with local and out-of-area companies, including a small business in Lancaster whose products are built to spec in China.

Yormick declined to name the company but said the business faces a 25 percent tariff that “will probably put them out of business in a matter of months” unless they are able to secure a product exclusion and avoid paying the duty.

“By every measure, the economy is doing well, yet you have certain companies out there that are so impacted by these (tariffs) that instead of thinking about hiring more and investing in research and development and opening new offices, they’re trying to figure out how they’re going to survive,” Yormick said.

Business First set out to identify locally based companies affected by tariffs and talk to them about how the ongoing trade wars help or hurt them.

What we found is the impact depends on the industry. And what they all agree on is that uncertainty is no friend to business.

“This could go on for quite a while,” Friedman said. “And while governments are trying to negotiate these issues and figure this out, these actions are now going to have a very real impact on American consumers in terms of higher prices.”