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Trade showdown

Fireworks get caught up in trade dispute

Justin Ho Jul 3, 2019
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Fireworks explode over the National Mall on Fourth of July in 2017 in Washington, DC.
Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

At Wyoming Fireworks Warehouse in Cheyenne, co-owner Nate McDonald sells everything from smoke balls to Roman candles and bottle rockets. Some of his best sellers this year: artillery shells — basically little balls of gunpowder you fire out of a tube.

And, like most fireworks, they’re nearly all Chinese-made.

“Like most fireworks, it’s pretty clear on the label,” McDonald said. “It says ‘Made in China’ on it, or the warehouse that’s coming from.”

The U.S. imports nearly all of its fireworks from China. And amid the ongoing trade dispute with China, fireworks have been caught in the crossfire — fireworks are on the $300 billion list of imports President Trump has threatened with a 25% tariff.

Bill Weimer, vice president of the Ohio-based retailer Phantom Fireworks, said no other country could manufacture the scale and range of fireworks that China does. 

If President Trump goes ahead with his 25% tariff, Weimer said firework retailers like Phantom Fireworks would have little choice.

“We couldn’t possibly absorb 25% and stay in business,” Weimer said. “So we’d have to pass it on to the consumer.”

That could hurt sales in a booming business. The American Pyrotechnics Association estimates consumers will spend more than $1 billion on fireworks this year.

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