An executive order signed by President Donald Trump last week could suppress trade prospects into the United States, according to local experts.
Trump’s order is aimed at stopping “radical Islamic terrorists” and includes a 90-day travel ban to the United States by citizens of Libya, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. However, those with legal U.S. residence, also known as a green card, have been at times detained at airports around the nation.
Doctors, scientists and computer programmers are among those blocked from entering the United States until undergoing a case-by-case review by customs and border patrol agents.
Tacoma’s two main hospital providers, MultiCare and CHI Frranciscan Health, did not report any employees out of the country affected by the travel ban. Port of Tacoma spokeswoman Tara Mattina said there are no port or Northwest Seaport Alliance employees affected by the ban.
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Louise Tieman, executive director of World Trade Center Tacoma, said she worried all weekend for her new intern.
“She left Iraq when she was 7 and moved to Lebanon and has been educated here,” Tieman said. “I am uncertain of what risks there are to her.”
The young woman is a college student at Highline College’s Center of Excellence for Global Trade and Supply Chain Management.
Companies are similarly uncertain what could happen to their business, and employees are snared by Trump’s orders, she said.
A husband-wife team from Iraq is in the process of creating a business to bring fresh apples to Iraq.
They had gotten access to the expertise at the World Trade Center Tacoma through a recently opened Minority Business Development Agency Business Center — which is funded through federal dollars that Trump has threatened to cut.
“The apples that they get (in Iraq) tend to be a couple of years old,” Tieman said. “They’re good looking on the outside but brown on the inside.”
The couple wants to buy apples in Yakima and ship them to Iraq.
“The husband is an American citizen but from Iraq, and he still has contacts there,” Tieman said.
The two had hoped to start shipping this summer. But now?
“The ability of that member to have buyers come to visit, or for them to go to Iraq and come back, that is part of normal trade and is simply uncertain. We don’t know” how the executive order will affect trade.
The trade center often hosts delegations from foreign countries seeking paths for two-way trade. For now, there are no delegations from the seven countries mentioned in Trump’s order. A trade delegation from west Africa is traveling to the state later this year, she said.
Peter Gishuru, president and CEO of the African Chamber of Commerce of the Pacific Northwest, said trade agreements between the continent and the United States have been in place for well over a decade. The African Growth and Opportunity Act was renewed by Congress for another decade just last year, he said.
“What this type of thing that Trump is doing is pouring cold water into that,” Gishuru said. “What it’s going to do is basically increase the trade or relationships between China and African countries.”
This isn’t the first time Trump’s policies have clashed with international trade. During his first week in office, just last week, Trump said he would tax imports from Mexico by 20 percent.