“With the presidential election now just over two weeks away, President Donald Trump has mounted a frantic effort to ensure America’s farmers, a key Trump voting bloc, will support his flagging re-election campaign. In short, he’s shoving piles of cash their way.
The New York Times details the “gush of funds” Trump has promised U.S. farmers—with more on the way. Some say total farm subsidies could top $40 billion this year. The Times says the figure may be as high as $46 billion. Either figure would be a record.”
“Non-partisan observers have also labeled them political handouts. “The Government Accountability Office found last month that $14.5 billion of farm aid in 2019 had been handed out with politics in mind,” The Week reports. The Times, citing the same GAO report, also highlighted by some Democrats, shows farm subsidies last year appeared to be directed to “big farms in the Midwest and southern states,” mirroring at least some segments of Trump’s farm base.
That same base has been hit hard by tariffs championed by Trump. In 2018, I predicted (as did many others) that Trump’s international trade tariffs would spur retaliatory tariffs and harm U.S. farmers and consumers in the process. They did just that.
But because Trump’s tariffs hurt U.S. farmers, and because he wants them to vote for him again, he’s sending them cash. That cash even has a name. Last year, one farmer NPR food-policy writer Dan Charles spoke with says he and his fellow farmers have taken to referring to the tariff-induced subsidies as “Trump money.””
“The case for repealing Trump’s tariffs is a strong one. The tariffs on Chinese imports have largely failed to bring about any of the benefits Trump promised, and both America and China seem to have already disregarded what little progress was made with the signing of a limited trade deal last year. The White House promised that tariffs would help rejuvenate American manufacturing, but the added costs from tariffs on industrial inputs were one of the chief reasons why the manufacturing sector had fallen into recession even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. America’s trade deficit with China, which Trump promised to reduce, is now larger than it has ever been.
When you add them all up, the tariffs are one of the biggest tax increases in recent American history, and the cost is borne—despite what Trump and his allies like to claim—entirely by American consumers and businesses. The administration has spent $28 billion just to fix some of the messes these policies have created for American farmers.
And while trade issues will probably never swing as many voters as culture war battles, people have noticed that the trade war isn’t going well. Nearly 70 percent of Americans say they are “concerned” about how tariffs are adding to the cost of household products—a cost that could be as high as $1,200 annually for an average household.”
“Meanwhile, Biden is pushing a dubious “Buy American” policy that would translate into a series of expensive and ineffective regulations in the name of economic nationalism. Over and over again, Biden and Harris have been happy to point out the many failures of Trump’s anti-trade policies, but they don’t seem willing to apply those lessons going forward.”
“When President Donald Trump imposed 10 percent tariffs on imported aluminum in March 2018, it was (predictably) American aluminum-consuming companies that suffered the most.
Companies like Whirlpool Corp., for example. The appliance manufacturer—which had previously been a cheerleader for Trump’s tariffs on imported washing machines—saw its sales and stock prices tumble in the months after Trump’s aluminum tariffs took effect, as the import taxes added to the company’s input costs. It takes a lot of aluminum to build a washing machine, after all.”
“Those tariffs had been lifted in 2019 as Trump sought to negotiate the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA), which officially took effect last month. But with the new trade deal in place, Trump has quickly returned to his old tricks. “Canada was taking advantage of us, as usual,” he said Thursday during a largely off-the-cuff speech at the plant. The new tariffs are slated to take effect on August 16.
Ostensibly, the justification for reimposing these tariffs is the claim that imports have increased dramatically in recent months. In reality, that’s a bunch of nonsense. The Aluminium Association says the claims of a surge in aluminum imports “are grossly exaggerated.” In fact, aluminum imports from Canada are below 2017 levels—the last year before Trump’s first round of tariffs took effect.
And even if aluminum imports were increasing, that’s not something to get upset about. The United States literally does not produce enough aluminum to meet its domestic needs, so imports are essential for supporting the 97 percent of American aluminum industry jobs that are in downstream production. And when more aluminum—or anything else—is traded back and forth between the United States and Canada, both countries benefit from the transaction. That’s how trade works.
It’s not exactly clear what Trump hopes the reinstated tariffs will accomplish, but the one thing that should be obvious is that American aluminum-consuming industries will once again be punished by the president’s trade policies.”
“The easiest way to win a trade war? Don’t be one of the countries involved.
When the United States slapped tariffs on steel, aluminum, and billions of dollars of Chinese imports in the summer of 2018, China and other U.S. trading partners retaliated by targeting American agricultural exports. By the time a series of tit for tat increases in tariffs by the U.S. and China came to a halt with a December 2019 partial trade agreement—one that left most of the higher tariffs in place on both sides—the average foreign tariff for American farm goods had jumped from 8.3 to 26.8 percent
As a result, U.S. farm exports suffered. Carter and Steinbach calculate that U.S. farmers lost more than $15.6 billion in trade with countries that hiked tariffs in response to the Trump administration’s trade war. Soybeans, pork products, and grains were the products most affected.
Some of those losses were offset by trade with other nations—for example, when China stopped purchasing U.S.-grown soybeans, growers had to find other buyers for their products. That was the goal of a July 2018 deal struck by President Donald Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker that the White House touted as a vehicle for sending more American soybeans to Europe.
As Reason noted at the time, Europe’s annual consumption of soybeans was less than 25 percent of China’s (and it already had access to tariff-free imports of U.S. soybeans), so “unless Juncker and Trump plan to start jamming soybeans down European throats, foie gras-style, there’s simply no way that Europe can consume enough soybeans to make up for the loss of China as an American export market.”
“Nearly two years later, Carter and Steinbach calculate that so-called “deflected trade” in agricultural goods boosted U.S. exports by about $1.2 billion during the trade war—leaving American farms only $14 billion in the red.”
“countries that the two researchers identify as “non-retaliatory countries”—that is, places that did not hike tariffs in response to U.S. tariffs on steel, aluminum, and other goods—gained more than $13.5 billion by increasing trade to places, like China, that took steps to reduce imports of U.S. farm goods.”
“soybean farmers are worried about how the trade war might permanently reshape the global soybean trade, to the detriment of American growers.”
“In March 2018, after Trump announced his intention to hike tariffs on steel and aluminum, Peter Navarro, the director of the White House’s National Trade Council, was asked about the potential consequences of retaliation aimed at American farm exports.
“I don’t believe any country in the world is going to retaliate,” he said. “They know they’re cheating us, and we’re just trying to stand up for ourselves.”
Navarro and Trump were wrong. American farmers have lost $14 billion because of their mistake.”
“President Donald Trump’s tariffs are crimping supply chains for chemicals used to manufacture disinfectants and cleaning products—items that are needed to combat COVID-19 and that will be in even higher demand as the economy reopens.
In a letter sent last week to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, the American Chemistry Council, an industry group, highlighted dozens of items that are subject to the Trump administration’s tariffs. The list sent to Lighthizer includes various chemical building blocks used to manufacture everything from soap to detergent, and surface cleaners to bleach.”
“The Trump administration took action in March to exempt medical equipment—including face masks and personal protective equipment (PPE)—from its tariff regime. But those exclusions did not apply to chemicals, like isopropyl alcohol and the dozens of other items on the council’s list that are not strictly defined as medical equipment but remain crucial to many products used by health care workers.
Trump’s tariffs are also affecting companies that need to purchase disinfectant wipes and other cleaning products. “According to the CDC guidelines…to prevent the spread of COVID-19 it recommends the use of EPA approved disinfectant wipes,” wrote Daniel Marquardt, principal owner of Hilo Industries LLC, a Virginia-based construction contractor, in a tariff exemption request filed last month. Hilo, like many other businesses across the country, needs to import tubs of disinfectant wipes that will be “used by our customers, employees, and their customers to enable them to work and patronize safely to help combat and control COVID-19,” Marquardt wrote.
But the tariff exemption process is opaque and slow—far from the ideal way to relieve the stress tariffs are causing. Sens. Tom Carper (D–Del.) and Pat Toomey (R–Pa.) have urged the Trump administration to move more quickly and issue more tariff exemptions in order to speed the response to the pandemic, but White House trade adviser Peter Navarro has laughed off those concerns as “fake news.””
“the tariffs are making it more expensive for American businesses to make those purchases, and therefore leaving them unable to purchase as much as they might otherwise choose. Much of the Trump administration’s trade war has been a real-life lesson in what economists call a “deadweight loss”—that is, a market inefficiency that creates losses for some participants but no gains for anyone else—but rarely does it appear this obvious.”
“The Trump administration has delayed tariff payments for three months as a way to boost liquidy for American importers, but that’s little help over the long term. Tariffs on products that are necessary components of disinfectants will only make it more difficult to achieve the reopening that Trump desperately seeks.”
“This “phase one” deal, which the US and China reached in December, will cool trade tensions between two economic superpowers that have rattled the globe.
But it stops short of the comprehensive trade and reform agreement the Trump administration wanted when it launched its trade war with China in 2018.
Instead, China has agreed to make purchases of about $200 billion worth of US goods over a two-year period, including almost doubling its agricultural purchases to $40 billion.
China also made concessions on intellectual property, currency, and access to financial services, and it’s promised to halt the practice of forcing companies to turn over their technology, according to the United States Trade Representative.
The US, in exchange, will call off and reduce some tariffs, though taxes on $360 billion in Chinese goods will stay in place.
President Donald Trump is selling this deal as an enormous win, but the administration did not get the structural changes to China’s economy that it wanted, including tackling things like Beijing’s huge subsidies to Chinese companies. It’s still not clear if China can or will totally fulfill this obligation to buy US products, and even if it does, the guarantee is only for two years.
Given all that, this partial trade deal might not be able to make up for the pain the trade war caused.”
“few experts think such a phase two is possible. It’s much more likely the US settled because this is all it could get out of China — and for Trump, it was worth it to have something he could brag about ahead of the 2020 election.”
“Allegheny Technologies, which employs about 100 people, is the type of company that is especially vulnerable to Trump’s tariffs. It imports stainless steel slab from Indonesia and turns it into sheet metal, which it then sells to other manufacturers who incorporate it into car parts, kitchen appliances, and more.
Being in the middle of the supply chain is rough when you’re also in the middle of a trade war. Companies like Allegheny Technologies have to pay for Trump’s 25 percent tariffs on imported steel, and then have little choice but to pass on that cost increase to their customers. But, as Wetherbee laments, that makes it difficult for a company like his to compete against foreign manufacturers who can make and sell sheet metal without having to account for an extra 25 percent import tax.
Buying American doesn’t work, either, since U.S. steel is more expensive. One domestic supplier, Wetherbee writes, “quoted us a price for 60-inch slabs that was so high, the raw materials would have cost us more than we charge for the finished product.””
“Economists Aaron Flaaen and Justin Pierce, who describe their study as “as the first comprehensive estimates of the effect of recent tariffs on the US manufacturing sector,” argue that the data shows that any benefits from protection from foreign competition have been more than canceled out by retaliatory tariffs from trading partners and an increase in the cost of components sourced from abroad.
As a result, US manufacturing has seen job losses and higher prices for consumers.”