By Neil Nisperos, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
Posted: 03/01/17 – 5:56 PM PST |

CLAREMONT >> President Donald Trump’s tough talk on potential tariffs — which has some fearing a trade war — also concerns a leading regional business and economy expert.

Jay Prag, professor of economics and finance at the Drucker School of Management at Claremont Graduate University, is choosing to remain optimistic, he said at a breakfast discussion Wednesday at the school. He called for California leaders to embrace the more business-oriented direction signaled by Trump’s administration.

Locally, the fear is that potential tariffs on imported goods from Asia and Mexico could stymie job growth in the Inland Empire’s numerous warehouses.

Among those in the audience who knows that anxiety was Elias Enciso, owner of Elias & Co. Staffing, based in Ontario.

“My customers are mostly (goods) distribution centers,” Enciso said. “There are new warehouses in the Inland Empire. QVC just moved into a million-square-foot center (in Ontario) and Amazon keeps opening up distribution centers here. A lot of my clients are distribution centers and they ship in products overseas, so some of them have expressed concern over all of the anti-trade rhetoric.”

Earl Hall, a student at the Drucker School, agreed.

“In terms of jobs here, we’re heavily reliant on imports and exports, and if (Trump) … creates tariffs or does anything to make that process harder, there’s a great chance that will decrease jobs because people want to maintain their profit margin,” Hall said.

Some Republican leaders in Washington are referring to higher taxes on foreign imports as a “border-adjustment” tax, and Trump appeared to signal support for the idea in his speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday.

“We must create a level playing field for American companies and workers,” Trump said in the speech. “Currently, when we ship products out of America, many other countries make us pay very high tariffs and taxes, but when foreign companies ship their products into America, we charge them almost nothing.”

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