Pixabay/Jon Kline

The Scene:

In the beginning of July, President Trump enacted $34 billion worth of tariffs on Chinese goods, particularly metal products. Many are calling this just the beginning of what could become a drawn-out “trade war” with China. A trade war describes a strategy of placing high tariffs on imported goods in order to make goods produced in the home country more affordable than the foreign alternative. The United States and China continue to add new items to the list of taxed goods in order to try and outdo the other, causing concern among consumers that some goods will become more expensive in the US; not to mention the additional strain on foreign policy a trade war would cause.

The Takes:

Daily Iowan:

•    In 2016, an editor for The Daily Iowan wrote, “The most visible effect has been the disappearance of manufacturing jobs in the United States. That Trump has drawn support from the poorly educated should be no surprise: Their jobs have been outsourced to such countries as China, India, and the Philippines.”

•    “Whether increasing barriers to trade would actually benefit Americans is up for debate. But pundits should not easily dismiss voters’ frustration with the political establishment and the subsequent support of Trump as the cries of a racist section of the electorate.”

·       “The candidate has given voice to an idea that is hard to pin down, and he has done it in a way that resonates with a significant number of people. Trump may end up eventually shooting himself in the foot with his rhetoric, but a more palatable candidate may find success by repeating his message on trade.”


Stanford Politics Magazine:

·       David Cohen for Stanford Politics Magazine writes, “But take Trump on his own terms, and it’s clear that he’s got a plan: It’s the same old “Art of the Deal.” He doesn’t care about recognizing Taiwan, pulling U.S. troops out of Asia, or starting a trade war with China. Instead, he believes that if he can convince foreign leaders that he is willing to do any of these things, he can force them into a bidding war to shape his policy.”

·       “In his previous career, [Trump] demonstrated an enormous bias toward action: His history of pursuing ill-conceived business ventures, ranging from trying to sell steak at an electronics retailer to committing his name and reputation to a small-time education con, paint a portrait of a man unable to let go of an opportunity even if the risks far outweigh the rewards.”


The Chronicle at Duke University:

•    “One finds it painfully difficult to believe that these recent trade barriers have been erected for the sake of the American people. If we are to peer beyond the scope of the steel sector, we actually will endure a net loss in jobs (146,000) as predicted by the Trade Partnership,” writes the Editorial Board for The Chronicle at Duke University.

•    “Most worrying about this recent pattern is the exacerbation of already poor tensions between the United States and China—considered by many to be the two major global powers of the 21st century. As explained by prominent scholars of international relations, China’s rise as a global hegemon risks carrying the U.S and China into the historically deadly "Thucydides Trap." The idea holds, in most basic terms, that a rising power triggers great fear in the mind of an established power…”

•    “In enacting tariffs against China at such a time, Trump has, should tensions in the South China Sea come to a head, removed a critical rung from the escalation ladder in a would-be dispute. Ultimately, this has been done for the sake of Trump’s voter base, and Trump will stop at nothing to pander to his isolationist base that sees the U.S as the world’s supreme hegemon in which the presidency can act independently of rational foreign relations.”


The Bottom Line: It’s likely that the US economy will see some small improvements as a result of the new tariffs on aluminum and steel. Such improvements will be lauded by the Trump Administration, who, after barely weathering scandal after scandal, desperately needs a victory. Though many economists and foreign policy experts believe that this policy of trade protectionism will end up hurting the US in the end, Trump’s base has not taken well to forewarning or negative predictions and is unlikely to listen to heed them regarding this policy, and therefore will have to suffer the consequences.

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