Boats, TV sets, and cooper are among the list of imports covered by $200 billion in new tariffs against China that the Trump administration announced Monday. The list is a lengthy grab bag of several hundred items, including large categories of consumer and bulk food, raw chemicals, and metals used in industry, personal-care items like perfumes, mattresses, toys, and much more.
This addition brings tariffs to about half of all goods imported from China to the U.S. Tariffs increase the cost of goods to U.S. buyers, and lead to higher prices for the same items from domestic producers and imports from countries that have avoided tariffs.
The surcharge starts at 10% later in September, and jumps to 25% by the end of 2018.
An anticipated and preliminary list of possible products appeared in July. The final list released today removed 300 items that include smartwatches, bike helmets, children’s playpens, some chemicals, and health and safety devices.
President Donald Trump said he imposed the tariffs to pressure China on business tactics that he said unfairly disadvantage American businesses. At the White House on Monday, he said the U.S. trade gap with China—the net between imported and exported goods between the two countries—was too large, and “We can’t do that anymore.”
A previous $50 billion round of tariffs imposed on Chinese imports largely affected products used by American manufacturers in producing goods. China imposed about $34 billion in retaliatory import charges.
The new $200 billion round directly imposes a surcharge on consumer electronics, kitchenwares, tools, and food. China has previously stated if America imposed this new larger set of taxes, China would place tariffs on American imports that total $60 billion.
So far, economists have found no broad negative or positive effect from earlier tariffs imposed on China, and on aluminum and steel imports from several countries. The effects are noticeable in particular categories, however. The price of washing machines in the U.S. increased 20 percent following tariffs on metal imports, and all appliances on average jumped 7%, for example.
The U.S. Treasury had invited Chinese officials, including President Xi Jinping’s top economic adviser, to attend talks in Washington this week. But a deputy to that adviser said at a meeting on Sunday that China would not negotiate with the U.S. under pressure. No talks are currently scheduled.
A government collects tariffs as a form of import tax. Tariffs can be effective in narrow cases to offset government subsidies that create cheap exports to the U.S. and others to boost economic growth, a practice sometimes called “dumping,” or to protect endangered domestic industries that have national or cultural importance. Canada, for instance, imposes high tariffs on some imported dairy products as part of price supports for its farmers. But tariffs are also used as a trade weapon, in which a country heavy on imports, like the U.S., attempts to use the surcharge to force policy changes that diplomacy has failed to reach.
The World Trade Organization, to which both the U.S. and China are parties, has a complaints process that can allow the imposition of tariffs if the party claiming unfair trade proves its point, and the offending nation doesn’t change its policies. The Trump administration has bypassed the WTO on its tariffs, however.
The vast majority of economists say that tariffs increase the cost of goods to companies and consumers without a meaningful improvement for domestic industries that benefit from reduced competition, because the higher prices subsequently charged reduce demand.