Will cosmetics and personal care ingredient trade between Australia and the US come undone in the age of Trump?
Since that fateful phone call between Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Trump on January 28, the two nations have had more conciliatory interactions. For instance, earlier this month on the 7th, Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop spoke with Rex Tillerson, who has only recently been installed as US Secretary of State.
All the same, this country’s diplomatic and trade relationships with long-standing allies like Australia and, for that matter, with every other country around the world are in flux or in doubt (depending on the vantage point).
Jacqui Rathner is the chief operating officer at Naturally Australian Products (NAP for short), a company headquartered in Australia that imports cosmetics and personal care ingredients to manufacturers and brands here in the States. NAP has offices here in the US, where Rathner works, as well as warehouses in Santa Clarita, CA, just north of Los Angeles. Essential oils from Tea Tree, Eucalypti, Peppermint, and Sandalwood are among the company’s most heavily traded products.
NAP flies product into the US as needed, but more often than not imports via sea freight. The company boasts a portfolio of more than 500 products, many of which they sources directly from their own farmland. Other ingredients are sourced in partnership with farmers the company has gotten to know well over the years.
Today, it’s business as usual for Naturally Australian Products. In fact the company is poised to launch a new selection of extracts. “From the early pre-launch buzz,” says Rathner,“we expect our new all natural extracts using an innovative technology of full cellular extraction to eclipse the essential oil sales quickly.”
Rathner tells Cosmetics Design that US – Australian relations “have been easy,” noting that “we have enjoyed benefits from the Transatlantic Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement that keeps tariffs low.”
While it may be true that nothing has changed for NAP's business in the 27 days since Trump took office, when asked about the disposition of her colleagues, clients, and stakeholders, Rather admitted that “people are a little edgy,” adding that, “as usual we Australians have a ‘see how it goes’ attitude.”
Looking to the future, Naturally Australian Products is realistically cautious. When, “in the first few days of the administration Trump threatened to tear up the Transatlantic Pacific Partnership (TPP) it was very concerning to us,” Rathner tells Cosmetics Design.
“It is a waiting game to see how it impacts our imports. Should import duties be applied, then our prices will increase and that in turn will impact the American end user as these duties will have to be passed on. That would create a situation where our clients will be buying less goods for their US dollar. I don’t think that benefits anyone,” says Rathner.
Looking at the bigger picture, she acknowledges that “international trade is built on many years of trust and stability.”
“If Trump is not a stable or steady leader with diplomacy, he will cause confusion and bitterness,” believes Rathner. “It takes a huge investment and quite a bit of courage to set up in any foreign country. If his policies are short sighted it will cause many people who have come here in good will and invested heavily to lose the time, energy, and money that they have put into the US.”
“We are watching how it unfolds and [to see] what impact this administration’s policies might have on us and in turn our clients as nothing is clear at this stage.”