Greer mayor taking measured approach in face of economic uncertainty caused by auto tariffs

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While the instability related to tariffs has many working in the auto industry concerned, Greer Mayor Richard W. Danner is hopeful the tariff skirmish will not develop into a full on trade war.

Auto exports have reportedly decreased 35 percent from the Port of Charleston and BMW has indicated they will be increasing vehicle production in China as well as raise the price of U.S.-made vehicles bound for China in the wake of the Trump administration's tariffs.

Danner has been mayor of Greer, a city with about 25,000 residents, since he was elected to the nonpartisan post in 1999. City Hall is only a few miles from the BMW auto plant that employs almost 9,000.

Despite the reported effects tariffs are having locally in operational planning for auto makers, Danner is content to take a broader view.

Greer Mayor Richard W. Danner

"I am cautiously optimistic that continued factual conversations between global political and industry leaders will find reasonable and agreeable solutions for some of the issues of global trade," Danner told Palmetto Business Daily. "Our future as a global power relies on us helping shape the future of a global economy rather than be shaped by it."

Last summer, the Trump administration placed a 25 percent tariff on hundreds of categories of goods imported into the U.S. from China that have threatened to harm the future of auto manufacturers.

The New York Times said the tariffs are imperiling BMW which are estimated to have cost the company $344 million this year alone. 

In addition to BMW, Michelin, Mitsubishi, Kobelco, Toray, Minghua and others in the Upstate compete globally and are used to constantly adjustment of their business plans and sales strategies to adjust for changing markets and other factors. 

However, Danner remains optimistic about the realities on the ground in Greer.

"While the swords of a trade war and tariffs have been rattled, there have not been any slowdowns or layoffs of note," he said. "At this point, I only personally know of a small handful of smaller specialty companies that have been affected in some regard by the tariffs."  

Danner's belief that equitable trade agreements can be hammered out before the local economy is afflicted sound a note of optimism to end 2018, which began with the Trump administration's tariffs on various goods, including solar panels, washing machines and the aluminum and steel used by auto manufacturers and their downstream suppliers.

From his office in Greer, Danner said – for now – it appears the tariffs have not impacted the local economy. 

"As a community, I think we tend to take our cues about the effects of the tariffs from our observations of the general economy," Danner said. "We are located in an area that is populated with foreign companies and significant foreign direct investment. Nevertheless, I think the general consensus is that the economy is still robust."

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