Our View: Trade war exposes Port’s vulnerability

By / The Astorian

International trade can be complex.

But it is pretty clear what’s happening at the Port of Astoria as the United States and China engage in a trade war.

Astoria Forest Products, a log exporter, scaled back operations. The last ship bound for China, the African Raven, left in October. The Port trimmed staff through attrition to save money and moved out of its nicer offices on Pier 1 to the older Gateway Building.

As Edward Stratton reported in October, the Chinese imposed tariffs on hemlock, the most common type of lumber exported from Astoria, along with Douglas fir and spruce. Log exports total 50 to 55 million board feet per year and make up between 20% and 25% of the Port’s revenue.

A decade ago, there was some skepticism when the Port granted Westerlund Log Handlers a lease for a log export venture. Several prominent city and business leaders worried log handling at the Port would undermine seafood processors and emerging cruise ship traffic. Local mills, like Hampton Lumber in Warrenton, complained the Chinese paid more and undercut the domestic log market.