Why the China-U.S. trade war may threaten America’s 4th of July fireworks


(CBS) – As Americans prepare to celebrate Independence Day, a Fourth of July tradition faces a potential threat. The majority of fireworks sold in the U.S. are manufactured in China — but a trade war between the two countries may cause prices to skyrocket, and some fireworks vendors fear the economic pressure could drive down sales.

Skip Mackall, who manages a store for Phantom Fireworks, the country’s largest consumer-based fireworks retailer, told CBS News that “all of our products are produced in China.”

He said he’s worried about how the tariffs will affect his livelihood, but that “I worry more about our employees.” Phantom Fireworks employs about 3,000 people nationwide at this time of year, according to CEO Bruce Zoldan.

At the company’s 1.2 million square foot warehouse in Youngstown, Ohio, the shelves are packed with exploding novelties that traveled halfway around the world from China. But as President Trump proposes tariffs of up to 25% on all Chinese products, domestic fireworks sales could drop.

“We depend on China for a lot of imports, of a lot of products,” said Greg Ip, the Wall Street Journal’s chief economics commentator. Ip said the prices of goods like fireworks are volatile, because there aren’t American substitutes. When prices rise, he added, American importers can absorb the costs themselves or pass them on to consumers. 
That worries Zoldan, who hopes China and the U.S. reach an agreement before tariffs blow up his bottom line. “It’s my opinion that they’re going to make a deal. I’m guessing, but I’m also praying,” Zoldan said.

 “This is prayer for you?” asked CBS News national correspondent Adriana Diaz.

“It is,” Zoldan responded.

Fireworks were invented in China more than 1,000 years ago. Zoldan said it could take the U.S. a decade to catch up with China’s efficient fireworks production.

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