Trump Will Hit Americans With Import Taxes on $50 Billion in Chinese Goods

Don't believe the administration's claim that this will hurt China.


Chris Kleponis/CNP/AdMedia/Newscom

Little more than a week after backing away from the threat of a trade war with China, the Trump administration on Tuesday reversed course and announced plans to impose tariffs on some 1,300 Chinese-made goods.

"The United States will impose a 25 percent tariff on $50 billion of goods imported from China containing industrially significant technology," the White House announced Tuesday. A final list of covered imports will be announced on June 15—the preliminary list released in April included everything from biscuit ovens to airplane parts, and from flamethrowers to cash registers—and the tariffs will actually be imposed "shortly thereafter," the White House said.

This amounts to a huge increase on American consumers and businesses.*

But don't take my word for it. Instead, take John Hoff's. Hoff, the president of Global Point Technology, an upstate New York company that designs and sources manufacturing components, was one of more than 100 people to testify before the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative against the proposed tariffs. His business already pays more than $40,000 in import taxes, but would have to pay more than $1.3 million if Trump's proposed tariffs went into affect, he told the office's special tariff committee.

"Imposing these tariffs would not be punishing a Chinese company," Hoff said. "It would be punishing a U.S. company."

He was hardly the only one to deliver that message. Over and over again, the committee heard from American business owners who said tariffs would wreck their bottom lines, force price increases to be passed along to consumers, and not do much of anything to punish China.

A few days after the hearing—and after two days of negotiations between Trump administration officials and their Chinese counterparts—an armistice was declared. China made some vague promises about buying more American products with the aim of reducing the trade deficit between the two countries, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin went on Fox News to declare that the administration was "putting the trade war on hold."

The peace apparently didn't last.

What changed? Maybe this is another case of Trump simply doing whatever the last person to speak to him says. Behind the trade war, there is a more camouflaged conflict between Trump's top economic advisers, with free-traders like Mnuchin and Larry Kudlow pitted against economic nationalists like Peter Navarro. Over the long weekend, maybe the protectionists cornered the president and changed his mind.

Or maybe Trump has "thrown caution to the wind" and is following his gut on tariffs as one unnamed White House source told Axios' Jonathan Swan over the weekend.

Regardless of the reasons, this is no way to conduct foreign policy and serves only to rattle the domestic economy. Trump's quick about-face on the Chinese tariffs surprised Beijing. "This is obviously contrary to the consensus reached between the two sides in Washington not long ago," China's Ministry of Commerce said Tuesday in a statement.

Whatever it is that Trump hopes to accomplish by threatening a trade war—here's your reminder that the goals are far from clearly outlined, nor is there much evidence that tariffs are a useful tool in fighting China's admittedly bad trade practices—it's hard to see how pulling the rug out from under your negotiating partner is a step on the path towards resolution.

Worse, this tune-in-next-week-to-find-out approach to trade negotiations creates huge levels of uncertainty for American businesses.

"How are U.S. businesses to innovate and create more value for consumers when policymakers bring so much uncertainty to trade?" asks Nathan Nascimento, vice president of Freedom Partners, a pro-trade group. "While some have speculated that this routine of announcing future tariffs is a mere negotiating ploy, the reality is that they have immediate and lasting, negative impacts on millions of Americans."

CORRECTION: The headline and third paragraph of this story originally stated that tariffs on Chinese goods amounted to a $50 billion tax increase on American consumers and businesses. That is incorrect. The tariffs will be applied to $50 billion worth of imports, at a rate of 25 percent.

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  1. So, Reason still doesn’t think this has anything to do with the North Korea talks huh?

    1. Reason doesn’t think at all. It’s an organization, not an organism.

      1. Sadly, most of their writers don’t do much in the way of thinking either.

      2. Ok, name a singular Reason author who has posited that maybe Chinese trade is being used as a bargaining chip in bringing North Korea to the table.

        Oh, wait, you’re Hugh so you didn’t really have a point. I’m well aware that ‘Reason’ isn’t someone’s name who writes a lot of articles under various pseudonym’s.

        1. Ok, name a singular Reason author who has posited that maybe Chinese trade is being used as a bargaining chip in bringing North Korea to the table.

          Is there any good evidence that this is the case?

          I’m well aware that ‘Reason’ isn’t someone’s name who writes a lot of articles under various pseudonym’s.

          I’m glad I could change your mind.

    2. Compelling case.

      I’d say it has more to do with the tough-on-China talk he’s been spouting since day 1, and the general agreement that he bent himself over on ZTE and needed to do something Trumpy in response.

  2. If tariffs won’t hurt China, then how is trade beneficial to both sides? The US by definition is the most profitable place for China to sell these goods. Otherwise, China wouldn’t be selling them here.

    Let’s have a debate about how much this hurts the US economy. But, claiming it won’t hurt the Chinese economy is absurd and contrary to the assumptions behind all of the arguments made in favor of international trade. It is not so much that reason is wrong about this issue. it is that it is so craven that it doesn’t even understand or honestly present the arguments for its own side.

    1. Yep. That contention is totally absurd.

    2. Oh, it will hurt China all right. A lot. It’ll set their military research back by decades, at the very least.


  3. It’s Trump’s job to keep the viewers entertained, keep the audience coming back week after week to find out what’s going to happen next on Donald Trump Presents: Trump!. It’s the show that has all the critics talking and all the world listening, the most successful reality entertainment programming since NASA faked the moon landing. Part of its success is its outrageous unpredictability, it’ll go there and it’ll say that and it has zero fucks to give. Just when you think he’s going to zig he zags, and just when you think he’s going to zag, he head-fakes you one way, hip-fakes you the other and then turns around and runs the other way. Maybe he doesn’t even have the ball! You never know about this guy! He’s wild, he’s crazy, he’ll say anything, do anything, it’s why we love the goofy bastard.

    1. After 8 years of the dreary Prog ideology of Obama and 8 years more of the dreary Neocon ideology of Bush, you might be onto something there Jerry.

      1. If memory serves, the Presidency was more or less designed to fool the peasants into thinking there was a king. Perhaps in that regard the founding fathers were a little too successful.

        1. I wish I didn’t get so angry at how popular the royal wedding shit is. i wish I could just not care, but I think that’s my deep-seated wacky libertarian coming out. A gut-hatred of royalty.

          1. She has skinny legs, too.

    2. Pussy Grabber in Chief grabs pussy AGAIN! Surprise, surprise! More news at 11:00!!!

      I fundamentally think that a huge percentage of Trump voters (who bothered to study up in the slightest) voted for a Pussy-Grabber in Chief who would pussy-grab for them, on behalf of them and theirs! If PGC (Pussy-Grabber in Chief) could pussy-grab the people whose loans he defaulted on, people who’d been ripped off by his “school”, and illegal humans who’d worked on building his buildings, and on and on, then SURELY the PGC can grab some pussy for us selfish, short-sighted voters! We can pussy-grab our international trade partners, and other nations, races, and creeds in general!

      1. These voters simply cannot or will not recognize the central illusion of politics? You can pussy-grab all of the people some of the time, and you can pussy-grab some of the people all of the time, but you cannot pussy-grab all of the people all of the time! Sooner or later, karma catches up, and the others will pussy-grab you right back!

      2. Pussy on the brains, mate?

  4. “Regardless of the reasons, this is no way to conduct foreign policy and serves only to rattle the domestic economy.”

    A final list of covered imports will be announced on June 15?

    Notice, the Kim-Trump summit is set for June 12.


    Probably not.

    You don’t have to bark like crazy every time Trump yanks your leash. You can use your head instead.

    It’s up to you, really.

    In the meantime, Trump plays ball with China so long as China plays ball with North Korea.

    It’s been working that way since day one of the “trade war” that never happened.

    I don’t understand why this aspect was never even mention in the article.

    1. “I don’t understand why this aspect was never even mention in the article.”

      Sure you do.
      They don’t mention it because it doesn’t fit The Narrative.

  5. 50 billion?
    Hey, someone has to fund the government for the next 4 and a half days.

    1. Or make this month’s interest payment on the federal debt.

  6. Trump has two things he cannot do in my world.

    Do not screw up the economy.

    Do not start any more wars.

    So far as I care he should play golf and host dinners.

  7. I’m for Made in America, lets reduce our need for imports. Problem solved.

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