“The Commerce Department has officially declared a trade war on cheap tin cans.
Last week, the department gave a green light to placing new tariffs on tinplate steel—the metal used to manufacture tin cans and a wide variety of other consumer goods—imported from Canada, China, Germany, and South Korea. While the new tariffs are far less extensive than the absurdly high trade barriers originally requested by Cleveland-Cliffs, an Ohio-based steel company that is one of the few companies in America to make tinplate steel, the tariff decision once again underlines the arbitrary and cronyist nature of federal trade policy.”
“Because the tariff-petition process is heavily skewed in favor of companies seeking protectionism—among other things, the Commerce Department is forbidden from considering how higher tariffs might impact other parts of the economy, including consumers—industries that need reliable access to tinplate steel were prepared to take a hit.
The Consumer Brands Association (CBA), which represents more than 2,000 companies including Campbell Soup Company and other brands that stood to be harmed by the tariffs, estimated that Cleveland-Cliffs’ proposed tariffs would have added about 58 cents to the cost of the average canned food product. A separate study by the Trade Partnership Worldwide LLC, a pro-trade think tank, found that 600 jobs would be put at risk for every steel-making job protected by the proposed tariffs.”
“A single American company was able to file a petition asking unelected bureaucrats to punish its competitors (along with many downstream businesses and consumers) in order to goose its bottom line, triggering a review process that cost taxpayer resources and forced other businesses to play defense in a game that’s deliberately rigged against them.”
“Trump’s presidency overturned decades of a generally pro-trade Republican consensus and ushered in an era of assuming that trade is bad for American workers and consumers. He hiked tariffs on steel, aluminum, solar panels, washing machines, and a wide range of Chinese goods. For Trump and his allies, those higher tariffs—which were directly paid by American importers and consumers—were meant to reconfigure the trading relationship between America and China.
But Christie is exactly right. It failed.
The one material thing Trump’s trade war accomplished was a so-called “phase one” trade deal with China, which he signed with Chinese President Xi Jinping to much fanfare in December 2019. That deal included a promise that China would buy $200 million more American exports annually. Those increased purchases were supposed to be spread across multiple sectors of the American export economy, something Trump promised would provide much-needed relief to farmers, manufacturers, and other businesses harmed by the tariffs he’d imposed since taking office.
China didn’t do that. According to an analysis by the Peterson Institute for International Economics, American exports to China didn’t even reach pre-trade-war levels in the first year that “deal” was in place. Both countries seem to have quietly dropped any pretense of following through on the agreement.”
“The E.U. imposed retaliatory tariffs on American whiskey (along with other quintessentially American products like blue jeans and motorcycles) in June 2018 after the Trump administration unilaterally slapped tariffs on all imported steel and aluminum. Trump’s tariffs were sold as an anti-China measure, but covered imports from allies like the E.U. and South Korea as well. The E.U.’s retaliatory tariffs, meanwhile, occurred despite promises from Trump’s top trade adviser that other countries would not respond with tariffs targeting American goods.
Due to those 25 percent tariffs, whiskey exports to Europe fell by about 20 percent between 2018 and 2021, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS), which lobbies on behalf of American booze producers. That decline in foreign sales cost American distilleries over $100 million.
Those tariffs were temporarily suspended in 2022, and exports to Europe rebounded almost immediately, according to DISCUS’ data. Over the past two years, exports to the E.U. increased by 29 percent and exceeded pre-tariff levels.
Now that recent growth is at risk. If no deal is reached by January 1, the E.U. could decide to reimpose the tariffs at 50 percent—double the previous levels—when the temporary reprieve expires.”
“Trump’s been out of office for nearly three years, but the consequences of his half-baked trade wars are still spiraling out of control—in no small part because of Biden’s unwillingness to end them. Another escalation in that conflict now looms over American distillers.”
“The series of subsidies and tariffs that the federal government uses to artificially inflate sugar prices in the United States cost consumers between $2.5 billion and $3.5 billion every year, according to a timely Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released today. Those protectionist policies aren’t the cause of the recent spike in sugar or candy prices, of course, but prices would absolutely be lower without them.”
“Those higher prices get baked—quite literally—into the cost of everything from Milky Ways to Sour Patch Kids. And, as the GAO also points out, this is a classic case of concentrated benefits for a special interest that results in huge, but very diffused, costs for everyone else: “Because the program guarantees relatively high prices for domestic sugar, sugar farmers benefit significantly, and sugar farms are substantially more profitable per acre than other U.S. farms.””
How Tariffs and the Trade War Hurt U.S. Agriculture Alex Durante. 2022 7 25. Tax Foundation. Tracking the Economic Impact of U.S. Tariffs and Retaliatory Actions Erica York. 2022 4 1. Tax Foundation. Lessons from the 2002 Bush Steel Tariffs Erica York.
“When supply chain issues caused a baby formula shortage last year, Congress (eventually) cut tariffs to help get more formula onto American store shelves.
It worked! Imports of baby formula soared during the second half of 2022 after tariffs and other regulations were lifted. Stores reported lower out-of-stock rates and news stories about panicked parents being unable to feed their infants abated. In short, the government removed economic barriers and the market solved the problem.
Then, the government put those barriers back in place. On January 1, the tariffs on baby formula returned. Now, so has the crisis.
“It’s getting harder and harder” to find baby formula, pharmacy owner Anil Datwani told Fox News this week. “[Mothers] go from one store to the next store to the next store” looking for baby formula.
Meanwhile, some consumers are complaining on social media that prices for baby formula have suddenly spiked and availability is once again a problem. A Forbes investigation into a recent increase in the price of Enfamil baby formula noted that the increases “follow the expiration of the U.S. government’s suspension of infant formula tariffs in January, which opened the door for formula (both foreign and U.S.-produced) to become more expensive.” (Another contributing factor: Reckitt Benckiser, the British-based company that owns the Enfamil brand, issued a recall in February affecting about 145,000 cans of formula.)
Because that’s what tariffs do, of course. They are import taxes that protect domestic industries at the expense of domestic consumers, who are subjected to limited supply and higher prices as a trade-off for industrial protectionism.”
“Negotiators from Brussels and Washington are scrambling to solve a five-year dispute over steel and aluminum dating back to former U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to slap tariffs on European imports. They have until October to get a deal but are still so far apart that European officials now fear the chances of an agreement are slim.
Without a deal, both sides could reimpose billions of dollars worth of trade tariffs on each other’s goods — potentially spreading well beyond steel to hit products including French wines, U.S. rum, vodka and denim jeans.”
“Officials in Brussels see the ongoing negotiations as just another push from the U.S. to force them into taking a harder line against China. “The language just seems written to tackle one country specifically,” said one of the European officials.
Discussions only recently picked up pace through the exchange of a U.S. concept paper and then an EU response. Those texts showed how far apart the two sides are on key issues, the officials said.
Washington wants to impose tariffs on imported steel or aluminum products, which would increase progressively based on how carbon-intensive the manufacturing process is, according to the proposal seen by POLITICO. Countries that join the agreement, which would be open to nations outside the EU, would face lower tariffs, or none at all, compared to those that do not.
The EU’s response — also seen by POLITICO — does not include any form of tariffs, according to the officials. Brussels fears the American plan for tariffs goes against the rules of the World Trade Organization, which is a no-go for the EU.
But a senior Biden administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing negotiations, told POLITICO that tariffs should not be off the table.
“That’s a pretty powerful tool for driving the market both to reduce carbon intensity as well as to reset the playing field to counteract non-market practices and excess capacity,” the U.S. official said. “What we’ve been trying to understand and respond to, in part, is what are those reasons that the EU has to have concerns about a tariff-type structure.””
“Several officials said Washington is also seeking an exemption from the EU’s carbon border tax, which imposes a tax on some imported goods to make sure European businesses are not undercut by cheaper products made in countries with weaker environmental rules.
Such an exemption for the U.S. is another no-go for Brussels. A European Commission spokesperson said giving the U.S. a pass on the carbon border tax would constitute a breach of WTO rules and “cannot be compared with” the U.S. steel and aluminum measures.”
“President Joe Biden ditched Trump’s brawling style. But he is keeping some of the former president’s key policies in place that are disliked by CEOs — including tariffs on imports from China and the EU and pressure on U.S. companies to cut their vast overseas supply chains to manufacture in America.
Biden has also stocked key agencies with people who have dedicated their careers to antitrust enforcement — including Lina Khan at the Federal Trade Commission and Jonathan Kanter at the Justice Department. In the last week alone, regulators have moved to blow up both a proposed airline merger and a major Wall Street deal, while attacking lucrative fees slapped on consumers by banks, cable providers and myriad other businesses.”
“”Contrary to conventional wisdom, imports are not a drag on the U.S. economy or the price we pay to sell goods and services abroad. In fact, rising imports coincide with stronger economic growth,” Scott Lincicome and Alfredo Carrillo Obregon write in The (Updated) Case for Free Trade, a Cato Institute study published in May. “The payoff to the United States from expanded trade between 1950 and 2016 was $2.1 trillion, increasing GDP per capita by around $7,000 and GDP per household by around $18,000.”
“Higher imports are also correlated with higher private‐sector employment in the United States, as numerous industries and workers depend on trade,” they add.”
“Could high tariffs and “buy American” policies compel firms to find domestic suppliers? Well, maybe. But foreign sources were chosen for a reason; replacing them with domestic suppliers will require compromises. “Subsidising electric cars assembled in North America will make them more expensive and lower-quality,” The Economist cautioned of protectionist policies. And since politicized policy tends to breed yet more politicization, tariffs and subsidies will inevitably be further burdened with conditions. “The red tape will raise costs to consumers and taxpayers still further.””