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What tariffs could mean for international businesses in Forsyth County
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Takashi Shinozuka, the Consulate-General of Japan, speaks at the International Engagement event hosted by Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018. - photo by Kelly Whitmire

With recent federal tariffs announced this year, there has been much debate about how they might impact businesses, a particular concern for international businesses in Forsyth County.

On Wednesday morning, tariffs were the main discussion point at the International Engagement event for international businesses hosted by the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce at Regions Bank on Atlanta Highway.

“Just this past year, of course, we’ve had several additions … added to our tariff policy,” said Dawn Townsend, division director of international trade for the Georgia Department of Economic Development. “Each is different, and from the state perspective, we can’t speculate what this means. There are companies that like the tariffs and there are companies that don’t like the tariffs.”

Tariffs, Townsend said, are federal tax collected by customs that go into the federal treasury and are paid by importers.

Those in the meeting represented businesses from Canada, Europe, Asia and South America, with one attendee saying his company did not really pay attention to tariffs until the new ones were implemented. The company “got an education over the last two months,” he said, and they were a burden for his company.

Townsend said the political debate surrounding the tariffs could make it tough to get real facts about their real impact.

“It’s just a lot of rhetoric,” she said. “So as the state of Georgia, our goal is to know the facts, to identify what is actual policy and make sure that we direct our companies to the proper place to be heard and be heard by the folks who can affect trade policy.”

She said tariffs on imports on aluminum and steel and on products from China had been the most concerning for Georgia businesses.

Retaliatory tariffs from other countries, losing market share, businesses passing the costs onto consumers and other concerns were also raised in the meeting.

Townsend said Georgia had $37.2 billion in 2017 in exports, 215 unique export donations and her department had international representatives in 12 countries.

Also speaking at Wednesday’s event was Consulate-General of Japan for Atlanta Takashi Shinozuka, who said the tariffs could have an impact on Japanese auto manufacturers with facilities in the U.S.

“If an additional tariff of 25 percent were to be imposed, it won’t be good for the American economy as a whole,” he said.