Tariff situation 'worrisome' for Michigan economy

Jobs in Michigan totaling about 1.18 million are supported by international trade, and 89 percent of Michigan exporters are small- and medium-sized businesses.

The president and CEO of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce is keeping a close eye on the trade war with China.

“[It's] worrisome for agribusiness and for manufacturing. I think it’s the next two or three rounds that would really begin to have a more severe impact on everyday folks, whether you live in Indiana or Michigan. We’re the heartland, and we’ve got a lot at stake,” Richard Studley said. “Employers in both South Bend and Niles are involved in national and international markets, and we want to retain those markets the best we can.

Studley spoke to NewsCenter 16 Tuesday, shortly before he addressed members of the Greater Niles Chamber of Commerce, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary.

Studley said the lack of progress on a trade agreement with the People’s Republic means members of Congress should quickly consider the new — signed but not ratified — trade agreement with Mexico and Canada.

“That would help mitigate or lessen some of the negative impact of tariffs,” he said.

Studley said his organization has been in contact with members of Michigan’s congressional delegation.

“We’re hopeful that the president understands that maybe [we] need to talk softly and carry a big stick, but in the end, history tells us that no one wins a trade war,” Studley said.

In Indiana, 812,000 jobs are supported by international trade.

Toward the end of this year, the sale of recreational marijuana is likely to begin in Michigan, and Studley calls that situation “a mess” that he fears may have to be sorted out in court.

“And whether you're talking about transportation or manufacturing or construction, employers remain very concerned about workplace safety,” Studley said. “The challenge is that marijuana still remains illegal under the federal law, and many of our members who are involved in interstate commerce are still required under federal law to do drug testing.”

Studley was complimentary of the merger that took place this year between chambers in Niles and South Bend, a merger that emphasizes a regional approach toward growth.

He joked that such a model probably wouldn’t work with Monroe, Michigan, and Toledo, Ohio, due to the football rivalry between the University of Michigan and Ohio State University.