Jushi USA

Jushi USA says tariffs will result in fewer workers and might delay construction of a second production line at its $500 million Columbia plant, scheduled to open in early 2019. Provided

The head of a Chinese fiberglass manufacturer that's set to open its first U.S. plant in Columbia early next year didn't want to talk about tariffs when he spoke at a World Affairs Council of Charleston luncheon in September.

But his company, Jushi USA Corp., has plenty to say about President Donald Trump's trade policy these days — and none of it's good.

In a letter to the U.S. Trade Representative that was posted Nov. 15, the company said tariffs "will have a crippling effect on Jushi's ability to build and operate its production lines," causing the firm "to re-examine all aspects of the project."

The result likely will be reduction in the 400 workers Jushi planned to hire for its first production line and a delay — "possibly indefinitely," the letter states — for a second line that would require another 400 workers.

The Jushi factory, a customer of the Port of Charleston, has been touted as Richland County's biggest with slightly more than 3 million square feet when fully completed. The Zheijang, China-based company — the world's largest fiberglass manufacturer — plans to invest $500 million in the site by the time it reaches full production. The plant is projected to serve all of Jushi's U.S. customers, replacing the need for imports.

"In an ironic twist," the letter states, "if the Jushi production lines are not built — or during any period of delay — the net result will be the continued imports of these fiberglass products from China."

The letter asks the trade representative for a tariff exclusion on equipment needed for the Columbia plant. The office hasn't yet taken action on the request.

When he visited Charleston in September, Jushi USA CEO William Woo sidestepped the trade issue, focusing instead on South Carolina's tight labor market and the red tape involved in securing visas for Chinese citizens who want to work in the U.S.

Both of those problems could be minimized if a tariff exclusion isn't granted.

"Jushi would not be the only party to suffer in this case," Kenneth Nunnenkamp, the company's lawyer, stated in the letter. "More than 400 jobs will not be available to South Carolinians if Jushi is unable to build its second manufacturing line."

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Just as the positive effects of economic growth spread, Nunnenkamp wrote, so do the negative impacts of tariffs.

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Trade barriers

The U.S. International Trade Commission wants to hear from small and medium-sized businesses that are having problems exporting their goods to the United Kingdom, particularly in light of that country's approaching withdrawal from the European Union.

The commission will hear from business owners affected by trade barriers between 8:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. at the Lonnie Hamilton III Public Services Building at 4045 Bridge View Drive in Charleston. The agency asks that attendees arrive by 8:30 a.m. for security reasons. For more information on the initiative, go to tinyurl.com/y9bjcod3.

Reach David Wren at 843-937-5550 or on Twitter at @David_Wren_