Tariffs on China Don’t Cover the Costs of Trump’s Trade War – The New York Times

There is little sign, though, that China’s loss is America’s gain. Much of the business activity is shifting to other low-cost countries, like Vietnam, with a transition cost attached for American companies that depend on them.

Numerous companies have announced changes in their supply chains or other effects from the tariffs, and more could be revealed as companies report second-quarter earnings in coming weeks. Nintendo has accelerated the shift of its Switch console to Vietnam from China, according to Panjiva, a supply chain research firm, while GoPro, Hasbro and other companies are reworking their supply chains to reduce their exposure to China.

The president and his advisers have argued that now is the time to try to force China to change trading practices that they say have hurt American companies and resulted in the loss of American jobs. The administration argues that the status quo was not without costs to the American economy. An investigation by the administration into Chinese intellectual property theft found that China’s policies had resulted in harm to the American economy of at least $50 billion per year.

Many trade experts and business leaders support confronting Beijing, and some have said the heavy cost of the trade war will be worth it if the United States can persuade China to open up its economy. But most disagree with the administration’s claim that the trade war is having no negative effect on American businesses.

“Certainly it is absolute folly to suggest that this is cost free for the U.S.,” said Rufus Yerxa, the president of the National Foreign Trade Council, which represents major American exporters.

Numerous studies have shown that American consumers are bearing much of the cost of the tariffs. Studies from the Tax Foundation in Washington and the Penn Wharton Budget Model at the University of Pennsylvania have shown that the tariffs amount to a significant tax increase on Americans, by raising the prices of goods. The damage is concentrated, as a percentage of income, among the lowest earners, who spend a larger share of their pay on imports than the upper middle class and the rich.

The administration has gradually increased the amount of Chinese goods subject to tariffs over the last year, from an initial $34 billion to a total of $250 billion, and ramped up the tariff rate on those goods.

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