Airbus tariff could hit local economy

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BAY MINETTE -- Proposed tariffs on imported aircraft parts used by Airbus in Mobile would hit Baldwin and Mobile economies hard, Baldwin County commissioners said Tuesday.

Commissioners voted unanimously to approve a resolution asking the White House to reconsider proposed tariffs that would add 10 percent to the cost of imported aircraft and parts. The tariff would include the parts used to produce the Airbus aircraft manufactured in Mobile.

In October, after the World Trade Organization authorized President Donald Trump to impose tariffs of 25 percent on European agricultural and industrial products and 10 percent on Airbus aircraft, airline parts imported from Europe to the United States were exempted from the fees.

Commission Chairwoman Billie Jo Underwood said officials have since learned that the tariffs could be imposed on the components. The move could have a significant impact on the economy on both sides of Mobile Bay.

“You have people in the US here locally who are assembling these aircraft, so it could really cripple the aerospace industry as we know it over here,” she said.

Many of the Airbus employees working in Mobile live in Baldwin County, she said.

“We’re concerned about what happens in Mobile County as well because we’re all in this together,” Underwood said.

Commissioner Charles “Skip” Gruber said the tariff lumps aircraft components vital to the local economy in with European commodities, such as wine and cheese.

You don’t usually see this thing happen when you’re talking about commodities like cheese and wine and all this other stuff and this got pushed in there somehow,” Gruber said. “It is what it is and we’ll have to deal with it and try to keep that from happening.”

Gruber said local companies that supply products to Airbus, such as Collins Aerospace in Foley, which has more 1,200 employees, would also be affected by a tariff.

Commissioner Joe Davis said the commissioners support Trump but want to urge the administration to consider the impact of the tariffs on American workers in Baldwin and Mobile counties.

“Our point in doing this is to be supportive of Airbus and supportive of our president and the executive branch to make sure that these tariffs are not put back on because of the phenomenal impact it would have, not only on Baldwin County but the whole region and the whole future of expanding aerospace,” Davis said.

The commissioner also voted to send a letter to Robert Lighthizer, US trade representative stating that Airbus has made a tremendous impact on the local economy.

“The livelihoods of the workers and their families will be greatly impacted by significant job loss if tariff’s on aircraft parts and components are put into place,” the letter said.