Less than a week into the trade war with China, President Trump is already thinking about levying more tariffs against goods imported from that nation to the U.S.
The White House said it was considering additional tariffs of 10% on $200 billion worth of Chinese exports. This would be the third round of tariffs on Chinese goods imposed by the Trump administration and comes shortly after a tariff of 25% went into effect against $34 billion of Chinese goods. While the tariffs wouldn’t go into effect for at least two months, they would be much more aggressive in the range of goods they’d apply to. Here’s what makes these different.
The round of tariffs that went into effect last Friday mainly applied to raw materials imported by American companies. Only about 1% of the items on the list were consumer goods. This round targets a larger number of consumer goods as varied as fish, luggage, tires, dog leashes, baseball gloves, furniture, clothing, mattresses, and some electronics. The Trump administration has tried to limit the impact of the trade war on consumers and any backlash that it might prompt, but the scale of these tariffs make it next to impossible to protect them.
Targeting total exports
A senior White House official told CNBC that the reason for the $200 billion figure was that it’s “roughly equal to their exports to us.” Adding $200 billion in goods to the list of existing tariffs would bring the total value of tariffed goods to $450 billion—just shy of the $505 billion in exports that China sends to the U.S. Trump had threatened this level of escalation as early as last week, before the current tariffs even went into effect.
Made in China 2025
As with previous rounds of tariffs, the new list takes special aim at “Made in China 2025” products. The Chinese government’s industrial strategy to make its goods competitive on the global market, in place since 2015, seems to have been one of the key instigators of Trump’s trade war.
Many Americans—even those the tariffs are ostensibly intended to help—quickly came out against threats of additional tariffs. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said that although he’d supported the previous tariffs, the latest round seemed “reckless.” In addition, the National Association of Manufacturers said this round could undercut the competitive advantage U.S. manufactures have gained by way of tax and regulatory reform in recent months. “The last thing America’s manufacturing workers need is an escalating trade war,” NAM CEO Jay Timmons said in a statement. “America has China’s attention, so instead of more tariffs, the U.S. and China should immediately begin working toward a fair, bilateral, enforceable, rules-based trade agreement to end China’s market-distorting activities. We can’t afford to wait any longer.”
Correction, July 11, 2018: An earlier version of this story misstated the NAM’s response to previous rounds of tariffs.