The Real Cost of Trump’s Tariffs
Whereas winners tend to outnumber losers when trade is liberalized, raising tariffs normally has the opposite result. US President Donald Trump appears to have engineered a spectacular example of this: his trade war with China has hurt almost every segment of the US economy, and created very few winners.
WASHINGTON, DC – Earlier this month, US President Donald Trump suddenly revealed that a trade agreement between the United States and China was not imminent after all. On the contrary, on May 10, the Trump administration raised its previous 10% tariff on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods to 25%, and threatened to apply the same rate to the remaining $300 billion or so of US imports from China by late June. China then retaliated with reciprocal tariffs on $60 billion worth of US exports, effective June 1. Surprised stock markets fell in response, with the S&P 500 down 4% over the first week of the renewed trade war.
US trade policy is now a hot mess of conflicting goals. Given the current impasse in talks with China, and Trump’s general unpredictability, the inconsistencies of US trade policy – and their costs – are unlikely to go away soon.
For starters, US officials and some prominent economists defend the high US tariffs as a regrettable but temporary expedient, and a necessary means to a strategic end. On this view, the tariffs are a weapon that will enable Trump, the consummate dealmaker, to force concessions from China and America’s other trading partners.
We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.
To continue reading, subscribe now.
Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.
Already have an account or want to create one? Log in