U.S. footwear production dates as far back as 1750, but today 98 percent of shoes are manufactured abroad. Historically, footwear tariffs have been out of step with the United States’ general approach to free trade. High tariffs on products like shoes hit low-income families the hardest – particularly those with children – as these families spend the highest share of their incomes on home goods that tend to be imported.
U.S. energy infrastructure company Kinder Morgan, Inc. (KM) started construction on the Gulf Coast Express Pipeline Project in May 2018. Estimated to cost $1.75 billion, the pipeline will span 514 miles in Texas and aims to increase the United States’ ability to export liquefied natural gas to Mexico. The administration’s steep tariffs on imported steel could throw a major wrench into the pipeline project.
E-commerce allows us to order anything around the world with just an Internet connection and the click of a button. As digital trade has expanded, so have barriers like data localization. International trade rules are still racing to catch up with an increasingly digitally connected world.
New public opinion research shows that the majority of Americans worry the tariffs will do more harm than good for the economy.
The current administration’s use of Section 232 to impose trade-restrictive measures on imports of steel and aluminum has become the source of increasing domestic discontent among steel-using industries, farmers who are the target of retaliatory tariffs, and Members of Congress who are reconsidering having delegated powers over trade to the President. It has also put WTO dispute settlement to an unwelcome test.
Manufacturers of labor-intensive products like apparel have already been looking elsewhere in Asia as labor costs continue to rise in China. China has not substantially increased market access for foreign investors in many sectors, causing foreign investment to slow or flatline in recent years. With lingering doubts about the worsening investment climate in China, the trade war is hastening decision-making that had already been underway.
Well-known razor makers like Boston-based Gillette already face strong headwinds from changing consumer habits: fewer men are shaving as regularly now that beards are more in fashion. Online subscription services like Dollar Shave Club or Harry’s are also putting pressure on prices and profit margins. Now, razor makers are dealing with the problem of tariffs on the specialized steel they import.
American cheesemakers are having a harder time finding an outlet for production through exports. China, Canada, and Mexico are three of the most important destinations for U.S. cheese. But in reaction to U.S. steel tariffs, these trading partners raised their tariffs on cheese. Getting caught in the crosshairs isn’t new for cheesemakers. It’s a sacred cow for many countries (pardon the pun) and therefore a popular pain point to exploit in trade disputes.
It’s important to first understand what a tariff actually is and does before we can determine whether Trump’s new trade barriers are good or bad.
The biggest chunk of tariffs in the Great Tariff War of 2018 is between the United States and China, beginning with two rounds of tit-for-tat tariffs worth around $50 billion against one another. The United States just raised on the ante by another $200 billion. China will not fold; they will go “all in” in this poker game, but we don’t know what that means yet as they hold their cards close.