Tariffs on China begin to impact CT businesses

Posted: Updated:
STAMFORD -

A potential trade war with China could have strong effects on small, local businesses in western Connecticut, according to some business owners.

A few are already feeling the impacts, like a solar panel installer in Stamford who now has to pay 30 percent more for panels.

Optical Energy Technologies buys all of its solar panels from China, according to owner Jerry Falbel. But in January, the Trump administration added a 30 percent tariff.

"The solar cells are made in China, and they're put together in China," Falbel says. "The fact that the Chinese panels are cheaper has taken most of the market to China."

So suppliers stocked up at the end of last year, but now they're having to refill their inventories with more expensive items.

That means it costs more for business owners -- and more for consumers who buy the final product.

President Donald Trump says China has been taking advantage of American trade policies to transfer large amounts of wealth overseas.

"China has been taking out $500 billion a year out of our country and rebuilding China," Trump says. "This should have been done many years ago. We have no choice."

But tariffs will increase prices.

President Trump also wants steel tariffs to jump 25 percent and 10 percent on aluminum. Lumber from Canada could also become more expensive as tariffs hit that industry, too.

Connecticut's defense industry could see a big hit, too.

Sikorsky Helicopters in Stratford employs about 8,000 people. And thousands more work for small businesses that make things for the manufacturer.

Not only does Sikorsky sell helicopters to China -- its suppliers get materials overseas.

"It's just going to lead to higher prices," says Steve Glazer, an economist at Norwalk Community College. "Really any company that either competes with Chinese products or any company that gets parts from China directly."

But Greenwich investor John Tudor says he thinks both sides will reach a compromise before a trade war escalates much further.

As for Falbel, he sees it as a bump in the road.

"We've been in business since 1984, and we'll continue to stay in business," he says. "I don't think that's a problem -- but the amount of business will be reduced."

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