For centuries, South Carolina has been a prominent shipping hub and home to some of the largest manufacturers in the world. Our economy is incredibly dependent on exports, and trade accounts for one in 11 jobs statewide. When the number of exports falter, it causes a ripple effect that threatens our jobs and economic growth throughout the state.

President Donald Trump’s trade war with China threatens tens of thousands of jobs in South Carolina and has already hurt some of our most important industries. We heard the candidates make their pitch to South Carolina voters over the past few months, but trade is one issue that has not gotten nearly enough attention. As the election continues, Democratic candidates must talk about their plans to end the trade war and protect our local economies and workers.


Since Trump entered office, our state’s exports to China, our largest market, have fallen. During President Barack Obama’s final year in office, China purchased a record $6.5 billion worth of goods from us. But at the height of the trade war, that dropped by one billion dollars.

We can see the effects of Trump’s trade war all across our state. Manufacturer Archroma U.S. announced in August 2019 that it would lay off workers at its plant in Martin, where it paid its employees an average salary of around $60,000 in an area with a median annual income of less than $23,500. The head of operations of the Martin plant said layoffs were an unintended consequence of the tariffs.

Archroma officials said tariffs drove up the price of materials and caused the company to lose global market share to foreign competitors. Another company, Element Electronics laid off 126 workers in Fairfield County in 2018 as a “result of the new tariffs that were recently and unexpectedly imposed on many goods imported from China.” Retaliatory tariffs from our once-close trading partners make it nearly impossible for American manufacturers to compete with companies overseas.

Other manufacturers have had to slow production. Boeing, which makes 787 Dreamliners in North Charleston, said in January that it will build fewer jets as sales in China drop. These cuts come one year after the aircraft manufacturer’s last production cuts due to trade tensions. BMW’s largest factory, based in Spartanburg, may also soon face cuts if production changes here because of the trade war — other plants near Rock Hill and Columbia have stopped hiring and expansion plans as trade uncertainty prevents the creation of hundreds of new jobs.

Now, economic growth is slowing, with the trade war putting the livelihoods of tens of thousands of South Carolinians at risk. The eventual Democratic nominee has an opportunity to show what they’re doing to grow and protect our economy. Vowing to end Trump’s trade war must be part of that.

Ed Sutton, who lives in West Ashley with his family, is a commercial real estate developer, Air Force pilot, and a candidate for office in House District 114.