/ Modified jun 7, 2019 3:20 p.m.

Tariff Impacts; Recycling Changes; Tucson Mayoral Race

The effects of tariffs on Chinese trade on companies in Southern Arizona.

This week, Arizona 360 took a deeper look at tariffs levied on products making their way to and from the United States. Beginning last spring, the White House imposed tariffs on Chinese imports in a move designed to get China to end certain trade practices harmful to American companies. China retaliated with its own tariffs on U.S. goods. In Southern Arizona, Arizona 360 heard from two companies, Southwest Strings and the Green Valley Pecan Company, about how they're impacted by the escalating tensions over trade between the U.S. and China.

Imports from Mexico could see added tariffs as President Trump attempts to pressure that country to do more to stop illegal immigration from Central America. Shortly after the announcement, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce quickly voiced its objection to the plan. The chamber's Garrick Taylor discussed the group's concerns with Lorraine Rivera.

"As you know, Arizona is really one of the hotspots for the importation of fresh fruits and vegetables from Mexico and it's not like you can have a big inventory sitting around. This is an inventory that's switched out quite often. This is one of those areas where because of the tariffs shoppers in the produce section could see prices begin to tick up," Taylor said. "I can tell you that in the business community in Arizona these threatened tariffs have been universally panned. Nobody likes the idea of creating a self-imposed drag on our economy."

Tariffs are part of a strategy from the Trump administration to get a better trade deal with China and curb illegal immigration at the southern border. University of Arizona Eller College of Management economist George Hammond joined Lorraine Rivera in studio to discuss its effectiveness and the consequences it carries.

"We do have legitimate concerns about the way China conducts trade. And those concerns should be pursued. The problem is that tariffs are not the right way to do that. You don't solve one problem by first shooting yourself in the foot," Hammond said.

Hammond also said levying tariffs on Mexico could end up backfiring for the U.S. "It has the potential to damage the Mexican economy. That means less production, less employment there. It could generate more immigration into the U.S. if our policies wind up making Mexico worse off."

As China reduces the amount of recyclable waste it's willing to accept from the United States, communities across the country are scaling back their services to accommodate the changes. In Sierra Vista, the city decided to do away with curbside service. Beginning in July, residents will have to bring their recyclables to drop-off sites. City of Sierra Vista Public Works director Sharon Flissar explained more about why less of the country's waste is being shipped overseas, and the ramifications.

"It all started in China about two years ago. They were receiving a lot of recyclables that had garbage mixed in — too much garbage. And the processing costs for that for them were very high," Flissar said. "What we see sometimes is what we call aspirational recycling. People have items that they really want to recycle that aren't in the current recycling stream so they'll put them in their bin anyhow hoping there will be a way to recycle those. And unfortunately, there's not. And that ends up being counted as contamination."

According to Flissar, on average up to a third of the recyclables in a bin are considered contaminated, well above the 0.5% contamination rate China is willing to accept.

"So you're taking stuff coming out of the blue bins that's at 20-30% and you're trying to sell it at market with no more than 0.5% contamination. It's very low, and in a lot of cases it's impossible to meet," Flissar said.

The ballot is set in Tucson's primary election on Aug. 27. Much of the focus is on the mayoral race, with three Democrats looking to represent the party in the general election this November. Qualifying candidates include Tucson City Councilwoman Regina Romero, former Arizona legislator Steve Farley and developer Randi Dorman. One of them will face Ed Ackerley, who qualified for the general election as an independent. Tucson Sentinel editor Dylan Smith discussed the field of candidates with Lorraine Rivera.

Arizona 360
Arizona 360 airs Fridays at 8:30 p.m. on PBS 6 and Saturdays at 8 p.m. on PBS 6 PLUS. See more from Arizona 360.
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