The state is home to three of the country's largest automakers — General Motors, Ford Motor and Fiat Chrysler — and President Donald Trump's trade actions could increase car prices, Snyder told CNBC at the World Economic Forum in the Chinese city of Tianjin.
Trump announced Monday that a 10 percent tariff on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports will go into effect next week and eventually rise to 25 percent by year-end. If Beijing takes retaliatory action, the White House "will immediately pursue phase three, which is tariffs on approximately $267 billion of additional [Chinese] imports," according to Trump's latest statement.
When the extent of the full tariffs hit, "it will be painful in some fashion," said Snyder, a Republican. "Raising the prices of vehicles is a real concern," he continued, adding that agriculture players are even "more concerned" than the auto industry.
Michigan has been a major beneficiary of open trade with the world's second largest economy. It's received $1.21 billion in Chinese investment since 2011, a sum that's created more than 6,000 jobs.
The state's export business — which includes iron, steel, ships and glassware — is worth around $3.8 billion.
Snyder, who is in the world's second largest economy for a trade mission, said that despite the current stand-off, he's still optimistic: "Everybody wins if we put this behind us, in terms of a good solution."
"I'm still having wonderful meetings with people in China because it's about the long-term relationship too ... Most of the response I've been getting is how we keep doing (business) while this national discussion is going on," he continued.
Trump has long maintained that his trade policies are about bringing jobs back to the country but Snyder noted that his state was already experiencing booming tech and manufacturing employment.
Tariffs are less about jobs and more about important issues "such as intellectual property," the governor said.