How Tariffs Are Making Summer Fun More Expensive, Less Safe

“Tariffs aren’t merely making summer fun more expensive—they are also making it potentially more dangerous too.

“Life Saver is not a misnomer,” writes Neil Mooney, an attorney representing Life Saver Pool Fence Systems, Inc., in testimony submitted earlier this month to the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC), which later this week will hold a hearing on the economic impact of the multitude of tariffs imposed by the Trump administration in 2018.

For a company like Life Saver, which manufactures fencing meant to keep children away from unsupervised pools where they might accidentally drown, the tariffs have hiked the cost of raw materials imported from China. In his written testimony, Mooney estimates that the company has paid about $1.2 million in tariffs over the past four years—and has twice had to raise prices “specifically because of the tariffs.”

“The imposition of the Section 301 tariffs has forced Life Saver to raise its prices which inevitably has led to lower sales volume and therefore fewer protected pools,” writes Mooney. “The economic impact of the Section 301 tariffs is not only felt by Life Saver and other similar businesses and their employees, but also by the end consumers—American families.”

Are higher taxes on Chinese-made imports worth leaving American children marginally less safe?

Apparently so, at least for the past two presidential administrations. Former President Donald Trump used Section 301 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1974 to impose tariffs on a wide range of goods imported from China in several phases during 2018 and 2019. As a result, the average tariff rate applied to goods from China effectively doubled. Cumulatively, Americans have paid about $136 billion in higher costs as a result of those import taxes—that’s about $1,000 per household, according to research by the National Taxpayers Union, a nonprofit that opposes the tariffs.

Tariffs are adding to inflation, too. A study by the Peterson Institute for International Economics, a trade-focused think tank, found that repealing tariffs could reduce overall inflation by about 1 percentage point. Despite that, the Biden administration has so far been unwilling to do more than talk about repealing the tariffs imposed by Trump.”

America’s Fishing Industry Is Getting Caught Up in the Trade War

“Tariffs on seafood have hit Alaska in particular, Alaska’s fishing industry generates over $5 billion dollars in economic activity and creates nearly 70,000 jobs in the state, making it a vital lifeline for the state. Over 40 percent of U.S.-caught Alaskan salmon and one-third of all seafood from Alaska is exported to China each year. Much of it is processed in China and then re-imported to the United States for sale in grocery stores.

As the National Fisheries Institute points out, this split processing stream has contributed to rising seafood costs for U.S. consumers, as China’s retaliatory tariffs hit seafood when imported for processing and the original U.S. tariffs hit products upon their return to American shores.”

“For consumers, meanwhile, these costs are discouraging consumption of fish, according to a February study published by data analytics firms IRI and 210 Analytics. That month alone, sales of frozen seafood products decreased by 9.4 percent, while fresh seafood sales decreased by 12 percent.”

My Baby Needed Special Formula From Europe. U.S. Trade Policy Made It Almost Unobtainable.

“My son was born with severe heartburn and cried constantly—and the baby formula on the shelves only caused him more pain. At the suggestion of our pediatrician, we turned to a European goat milk formula that we hoped could soothe my son’s stomach until he grew out of his condition. But recently our orders were canceled, thanks to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

America’s baby formulas are incredibly standardized. The FDA claims that that’s safer, but those regulations mean that most formulas have multiple ingredients that could be allergens or irritants. Milk-based formulas in the U.S. also have soy ingredients like soy oil, as well as palm oil. And most American formulas have higher than average levels of iron, which can cause constipation. While many European brands are similar to American ones, you can find brands there that don’t contain so many possible irritants to a child’s sensitive stomach. We used Nannycare, and my son found it much more tolerable than its stateside competitors.

It’s impossible to say for sure why my English supplier suddenly decided not to sell formulas to a buyer in the U.S. But the timing of the cancellation provides a clue: It happened shortly after the FDA blocked a large amount of European formula from being sold, declaring that they did not meet the agency’s standards.

We are far from the only family that relies on European baby formula. Yet the free flow of perfectly safe goods into the United States is still extremely restricted. The agency’s strict rules about how formulas can be made limit options for children with medical issues and leaves parents with products that can cause their little ones pain.

Worse yet, these regulations are more driven by bureaucratic and political interests than by science. These products, after all, have not caused a wave of problems for European babies.”

How Trump’s Tariffs on Chinese Chemical Products Backfired

“When the Trump administration implemented tariffs on Chinese chemical companies in 2018, administration officials said tariffs would make American chemical companies more competitive. But industry groups told regulators last week that it’s had the opposite effect.

At a Thursday hearing on the impact of the Trump administration’s tariffs against China, the American Chemistry Council (ACC), an industry group representing over 190 U.S. chemical companies, informed the International Trade Commission that imports of Chinese chemical products have instead grown continuously since the tariffs took effect in June 2018. Over $35 billion worth of chemicals were imported from China in 2021, and Chinese companies now make up a larger share of U.S. chemical imports than they did when former President Donald Trump took office in 2017.

Per the ACC, the Trump administration failed to account for American manufacturers’ reliance on intermediate products exclusively produced in China. “China is the primary source of many valuable inputs to U.S. chemical manufacturing processes, and for which few or no alternatives exist,” an ACC representative said. “It would take years, and billions of dollars, to build manufacturing capabilities for these inputs in the United States or other countries.”

Dyes stand out as some of the most notable examples of vital Chinese imports impacted by chemical tariffs. For U.S. manufacturers to produce Red 57, a red pigment commonly found in many cosmetic products, they must import 3-hydroxy-2-naphthoic acid, also known as BONA, from China. BONA is exclusively produced in China, forcing American manufacturers to bear the higher costs associated with importing these critical Chinese-made inputs for their final products.”

“Despite the attention given to the industry by the federal government in recent years, chemical companies are warning that tariffs are hurting their ability to invest new capital in their supply chains and innovate on issues like climate change. They also worry that it will slow job growth and hinder the Biden administration’s broader efforts toward restoring resilience in the supply chain while only contributing to higher costs for consumers.

“[T]ariffs are clearly not working for the chemicals and plastics sector,” the ACC said in their testimony. “[They] are making the United States a less attractive place for jobs, innovation, and plant expansion.””

America’s Founders Raged Against Qualified Immunity, Trade Restrictions, and Anti-Immigrant Policies

“The Declaration of Independence is probably best known for the panache of its opening and closing stanzas. Those bits about “the course of human events” and the pledging of “our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor” suggest that the authors and signers understood the political and historical significance of the moment—and, after all, you can’t have a revolution without a little linguistic dancing.
But the bulk of the document—it’s just 1,330 words; take a moment to read it today—is dedicated not to grand statements about self-evident truths or sweeping philosophical claims.

Mostly, it’s a laundry list of complaints about how the government really sucks.”

FDA Finally Admits It Caused the Baby Formula Shortage

“it’s the FDA’s unnecessary and protectionist rules that effectively ban foreign-made baby formula from being imported into the United States. On Wednesday, the agency announced plans to tweak those rules so foreign formula manufacturers can permanently import their goods into the U.S., giving American consumers greater choice in the marketplace and ensuring more robust supply chains.”

” When the Abbott Nutrition plant in Michigan was forced to close temporarily due to an FDA investigation into possible contamination, it created a supply shock that left store shelves empty and parents scrambling to find formula. Because of the FDA’s protectionist rules (and high tariffs levied on foreign-made formula), markets could not adapt quickly to the shortage here in America”

“In testimony to Congress, FDA officials admitted to botching the response to the contamination at the Abbott plant. But the real culprit of the recent shortage was a deeper and more pervasive one. No matter what nationalists like Sen. Josh Hawley (R–Mo.) might suggest, closing off the country to international trade is not a recipe for resilience. The baby formula crisis demonstrated that it is quite the opposite.
So it’s good to see the FDA admit those mistakes and crack open the door to allowing foreign formula into the U.S. on a permanent basis.

Unfortunately, the list of policy changes the FDA announced..mostly amounts to providing technical assistance to foreign firms that want to sell formula here. That is, offering help in navigating the complex approval process, rather than sweeping aside those regulations entirely. If a formula maker has passed muster under E.U. regulations, that should be good enough for the FDA.

There’s also the matter of tariffs on imported formula, which are so high that they effectively make any imported formula uncompetitive in the American market. Why would a foreign manufacturer like Holle or HiPP go through the complicated FDA approval process (even after the announced changes) if it knows in advance that its goods won’t be able to compete on a level playing field in America?”

Smugglers’ secrets: How Russia can beat EU sanctions

“as the export bans bite over the coming months, Russia will start to crave banned goods that are essential for its military and domestic economy. The Kremlin will also want to replenish its war chest with revenue from sales of sanctioned products — from coal and oil to caviar — to willing buyers overseas.

That means, sooner or later, Moscow will go sanctions busting.”

Biden’s incredible shrinking infrastructure plan

“The inflation plaguing Joe Biden’s presidency is also shrinking what’s so far been his crowning legislative achievement — the infrastructure bill that Congress enacted just seven months ago.

Democrats have hailed the infrastructure law, with its $550 billion in new road, rail and broadband funding, as a transformative shift for the country. But inflation — which reached a 40-year high of 8.6 percent last month — has already slashed billions from its value, forcing states to cancel or delay projects as costs balloon.”

Globalization Is Alive, Well, and Changing

“It’s undoubtedly true that international trade, like all forms of market competition, disrupts some American companies and workers that, through government protection, formerly had the U.S. market to themselves. However, the economic case for free trade remains rock solid. American consumers (who are also American workers, by the way) gain from new access to goods and services at lower prices and in greater varieties. These gains come not only from foreign-made items but also from similar domestic ones that are now forced to compete with imports on price and quality. Studies show that trade’s “consumer surplus” is far more significant than a few cents on the proverbial cheap T-shirt. Recently, for example, several economists have found that falling prices caused by Chinese imports into the United States during the 2000s generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in consumer benefits for each American job potentially displaced by the China Shock—the equivalent of giving every American “$260 in extra spending per year for the rest of their lives.” Similar gains occur outside the United States: European consumers, for example, save €60 billion per year (about $64 billion) from lower tariffs resulting from the European Union’s entry into the WTO. Studies also uniformly find that these benefits—again contrary to the conventional wisdom—tend to disproportionately aid the poor and the middle class, who have tighter budgets and concentrate their spending on tradable sectors like food, clothing, footwear, and consumer electronics.

The consumer gains from trade are a big reason why Americans today work far fewer hours to own more and better essentials than at any prior time in history. Dartmouth economist Bruce Sacerdote finds that lower-income Americans’ overall consumption (adjusted for inflation) increased by 62 percent to 164 percent between 1960 and 2015, not fully accounting for improvements in quality. In other words, poorer Americans today can consume about twice as many goods and services as their 1960 counterparts, and expanded international trade is undeniably a big reason why.

Additionally, domestic companies and farmers gain financially from exporting their products”

“American companies also gain from foreign direct investment”

“the supply chain crisis? Another miss. For starters, multinational corporations and consumers have been adjusting their practices—diversifying suppliers, building inventories, investing in new capacity, altering spending patterns—since COVID first hit. Keeping trade and investment lanes free from government interference helps facilitate this adjustment. Just as important, there’s scant evidence that reshoring supply chains would help the country withstand future economic shocks. Two recent studies (one from the OECD and another from German research network CESifo) found, for example, that an economic shock abroad would hit a “decoupled” U.S. economy just about as hard (in terms of stability or welfare) as our current, globally integrated one. Any meager benefits, moreover, would come with major costs: Insulation from foreign shocks makes a nation more susceptible to domestic shocks (say, a freak ice storm in Texas) and intensifies any resulting pain because local supply chains adapt more slowly than global ones.”