Category Archives: Trump Tariffs

17/6/19: Lose-Lose-and-Lose-Some-More Trade War: Trumpism in Action


Recently, I have posted on the latest Fed research covering the impact of the President Trump's trade war with China, showing that the tariffs collected by the U.S. Federal Government are not being paid for by the Chinese producers, but are fully covered out of the American consumers' and firms' pockets.

Here is an interesting note via CFR on the balance of tariffs and farms subsidies dolled out as a compensation for the Trump trade wars: https://www.cfr.org/blog/130-percent-trumps-china-tariff-revenue-now-going-angry-farmers.

via @CFR_org

The point is that tariff revenues are a tax on American economy (households and firms), and these tax revenues collected by the U.S. Federal Government are not enough to cover compensation to the U.S. farmers for their losses due to China's retaliatory tariffs. Agrifood commodities are a buyers market: soybeans are sourced globally, traded globally and their prices are set globally. When China imposes tariffs on imports of soybeans from the U.S., the Chinese consumers do not pay the tax on their purchases of these, instead they substitute by purchasing readily available soybeans from other parts of the world. On this, see: https://trueeconomics.blogspot.com/2019/05/14519-agent-trumpovich-fails-to-deliver.html. Brazilian farmers win, American farmer lose. Uncle Sam subsidises U.S. farmers to compensate, using tax revenues it collected from the American consumers of Chinese goods.

But farming lobby is strong in the U.S. Thus, total quantity of compensation awarded to the farmers in now in excess of total tax revenues collected from the American consumers. It's a lose-lose-and-lose-some-more proposition of economics of trade.

23/5/19: Winning the Trade War: Easily and Bigly


NY Fed just published some interesting numbers on President Trump's Trade War with China. Available here: https://libertystreeteconomics.newyorkfed.org/2019/05/new-china-tariffs-increase-costs-to-us-households.html, the Fed note states that per recent study "the 2018 tariffs imposed an annual cost of $419 for the typical household. This cost comprises two components: the first, an added tax burden faced by consumers, and the second, a deadweight or efficiency loss... the tariffs that the United States imposed in 2018 have had complete passthrough into domestic prices of imports, which means that Chinese exporters did not reduce their prices. Hence, U.S. domestic prices at the border have risen one‑for-one with the tariffs levied in that year. Our study also found that a 10 percent tariff reduced import demand by 43 percent."

Thus, in simple terms, China is not paying the tariffs, American consumers are paying the tariffs. Just as Mexico is not paying for the Wall, and just as Mr. Trump is probably not paying his taxes in full (legally or not - a different matter). Same as the Trump Organization is not employing the greatest bestest American workers, preferring to employ cheaper legal and illegal migrants. And same as the Trump Organization is not paying their employees 'tremendous' salaries. And... well, you get the drift.

The Fed note states that, of course, the net loss to the U.S. economy is mitigated by the fact that the tariffs revenue is collected by the Federal Government and "could , in principle, be rebated". Alas, this is of little help to ordinary American households, because the U.S. Federal Government is not particularly know to be efficient spender of the money it collects. One can't really argue that taking $419 from an average household and pumping the cash into, say, new missiles and bombs to be dropped in Yemen is an equivalent economic activity. Or, for that matter, spending the same $419 on fighting in Afghanistan, or subsidizing loss-making perpetually insolvent boatbuilding docks in the U.S. that are already reliant on the atavistic Jones Act to sustain any pretence at building something. And so on... you get the drift.

The Fed researchers go on: "Some firms may also reorganize their supply chains in order to purchase their products from other, cheaper sources. For example, the 10 percent tariffs on Chinese imports might cause some firms to switch their sourcing of products from a Chinese firm offering goods for $100 a unit to a less efficient Vietnamese firm offering the product for $109. In this case, the cost to the importer has risen by nine dollars, but there is no offsetting tariff revenue being paid to the government. This tariff-induced shift in supply chains is therefore called a deadweight or efficiency loss." And the deadweight loss is fully, even in theory - forget practice - carried by the households.

Worse, "economic theory tells us that deadweight losses tend to rise more than proportionally as tariffs rise because importers are induced to shift to ever more expensive sources of supply as the tariffs rise."

How does that work? Marvellously, of course.

"... Compare the estimates of the costs of the 2018 tariffs with those of the recently announced higher tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese products. ...in November 2018, purchasers of imports were paying $3 billion per month in added tax costs and experiencing another $1.4 billion in deadweight losses. Thus, the total bill for U.S. importers was $4.4 billion per month. If we annualize these numbers, they amount to a cost of $52.8 billion, or $414 per household. Of this cost, $282 per household per year was flowing into government coffers as a tax increase and could theoretically be rebated. ... However, deadweight losses accounted for an additional $132 to households per annum and represent a net loss to the U.S. economy that is in excess of any tariff revenue collected by the government."

And the Fed analysis shows the effect of the rising deadweight loss on the U.S. households under the latest bout of tariffs hikes: under 2018 tariffs, deadweight loss was $132 per household per annum, and the total loss to the household was $414 per annum. Under 2019 tariffs, the deadweight loss is estimated to rise to $620 per annum per household and the loss to household budget of $831 per annum.

Now, the Fed study does not take into the account that higher prices charged on consumers as the result of tariffs are also subject to sales taxes imposed at the State level. Which means that for a 7% sales tax state, actual out of pocket losses for 2018-2019 tariffs war for an average household will be in the region of $889 per annum.

Based on the most recent data from the Tax Policy Center, "the middle one-fifth of income earners [in the U.S.] got an average tax cut of $1,090 — about $20 per biweekly paycheck" as a result of 2017 2017 Tax and Jobs Act (TCJA or Trump tax cuts). Transfers from corporate tax cuts to average salaried employee amounted to additional $233 per annum pre-tax. So an average household with two working parents gained somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,330 per annum from the 'massive tax cuts'.

You get $1,330, we take $889 back, and we call it 'America winning the trade war. Easily. And bigly!'

14/5/19: Trump’s Trade Wars and Global Growth Slowdown Put Pressure on Corporate Earnings


The combined impacts of rising dollar strength, reduced growth momentum in the global economy and President Trump's trade wars are driving down earnings growth across S&P500 companies with double-digit drop in earnings of companies with more global (>50% of sales outside the U.S.) as opposed to domestic (<50 exposures.="" of="" p="" sales="" the="" u.s.="" within="">
Per Factset data, released May 13, "The blended (combines actual results for companies that have reported and estimated results for companies yet to report) earnings decline for the S&P 500 for Q1 2019 is -0.5%. For companies that generate more than 50% of sales inside the U.S., the blended earnings growth rate is 6.2%. For companies that generate less than 50% of sales inside the U.S., the blended earnings decline is -12.8%."


30/3/19: The Art of Trade Fudge: USMCA


Much-lauded Trump's Nafta 2.0, officially known as the United States – Mexico – Canada Agreement (USMCA) came to being on November 30, 2018. In his State of the Union speech on February 5, 2019, President Donald Trump claimed that the USMCA will replace “the catastrophe known as NAFTA” and “deliver for American workers like they have not had delivered to for a long time.” In a brief summary of the USMCA, Vox (see https://www.vox.com/2018/10/3/17930092/usmca-nafta-trump-trade-deal-explained) has effectively argued that the new Agreement is largely a rehashing of the original Nafta - a step in no new direction, with only minor modifications of the Trump-hated agreement.

Last week, the IMF piped in with its own analysis of the Agreement. The new IMF paper (see: https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/WP/Issues/2019/03/26/NAFTA-to-USMCA-What-is-Gained-46680) provides "an analytical assessment of five key provisions in the new agreement, including:

  • tighter rules of origin in the automotive, textiles and apparel sectors, 
  • more liberalized agricultural trade, and 
  • other trade facilitation measures." 
So how good is the USMCA in driving forward trade and investment flows between the three economies? Per IMF, the "results show that together these provisions would adversely affect trade in the automotive, textiles and apparel sectors, while generating modest aggregate gains in terms of welfare, mostly driven by improved goods market access, with a negligible effect on real GDP. The welfare benefits from USMCA would be greatly enhanced with the elimination of U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada and Mexico and the elimination of the Canadian and Mexican import surtaxes imposed after the U.S. tariffs were put in place."

So, repealing the problem created by Mr. Trump - steel and aluminum tariffs - has more potential for welfare gains for Mr. Trump's electorate, than the new Nafta agreement that Mr. Trump claims to be one of his Administration's major achievements.

Mr. Trump has referenced, on many occasions, the need for reducing U.S. trade deficits with Mexico and Canada as the core justification for altering Nafta. IMF analysis of the USMCA shows that under the most welfare-enhancing scenario of USMCA introduction, accompanied by normalization of trade in steel and aluminum, U.S. trade deficit with Mexico can be expected to improve by only USD576 million per annum (0.58%), and with Canada by USD 1,781 million (4.31% improvement). However, U.S. trade balance with the rest of the world is expected to worsen by USD 2,698 million (a deterioration of 0.375%), more than offsetting the gains from Canada and Mexico trade.

Worse, U.S. workers will see no material gains from USMCA, as the IMF estimates presented in Table 9 (below) show:

As noted above, IMF projects no material growth boost from USMCA. More detailed analysis - by sector - shows that under the scenario involving repeal of Trump tariffs (the only scenario with positive welfare impact of USMCA), only two non-agricultural sectors of the U.S. economy can expect gains in output: food manufacturing and Other Manufacturing. In contrast, six sectors are likely to see their output decline:


All in, the IMF research shows the extent of economic fudge that is the current Administration's trade and investment policy. The art of the deal seems to be the art of faking soundbites and slogans, while delivering nothing new.

30/3/19: The Art of Trade Fudge: USMCA


Much-lauded Trump's Nafta 2.0, officially known as the United States – Mexico – Canada Agreement (USMCA) came to being on November 30, 2018. In his State of the Union speech on February 5, 2019, President Donald Trump claimed that the USMCA will replace “the catastrophe known as NAFTA” and “deliver for American workers like they have not had delivered to for a long time.” In a brief summary of the USMCA, Vox (see https://www.vox.com/2018/10/3/17930092/usmca-nafta-trump-trade-deal-explained) has effectively argued that the new Agreement is largely a rehashing of the original Nafta - a step in no new direction, with only minor modifications of the Trump-hated agreement.

Last week, the IMF piped in with its own analysis of the Agreement. The new IMF paper (see: https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/WP/Issues/2019/03/26/NAFTA-to-USMCA-What-is-Gained-46680) provides "an analytical assessment of five key provisions in the new agreement, including:

  • tighter rules of origin in the automotive, textiles and apparel sectors, 
  • more liberalized agricultural trade, and 
  • other trade facilitation measures." 
So how good is the USMCA in driving forward trade and investment flows between the three economies? Per IMF, the "results show that together these provisions would adversely affect trade in the automotive, textiles and apparel sectors, while generating modest aggregate gains in terms of welfare, mostly driven by improved goods market access, with a negligible effect on real GDP. The welfare benefits from USMCA would be greatly enhanced with the elimination of U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada and Mexico and the elimination of the Canadian and Mexican import surtaxes imposed after the U.S. tariffs were put in place."

So, repealing the problem created by Mr. Trump - steel and aluminum tariffs - has more potential for welfare gains for Mr. Trump's electorate, than the new Nafta agreement that Mr. Trump claims to be one of his Administration's major achievements.

Mr. Trump has referenced, on many occasions, the need for reducing U.S. trade deficits with Mexico and Canada as the core justification for altering Nafta. IMF analysis of the USMCA shows that under the most welfare-enhancing scenario of USMCA introduction, accompanied by normalization of trade in steel and aluminum, U.S. trade deficit with Mexico can be expected to improve by only USD576 million per annum (0.58%), and with Canada by USD 1,781 million (4.31% improvement). However, U.S. trade balance with the rest of the world is expected to worsen by USD 2,698 million (a deterioration of 0.375%), more than offsetting the gains from Canada and Mexico trade.

Worse, U.S. workers will see no material gains from USMCA, as the IMF estimates presented in Table 9 (below) show:

As noted above, IMF projects no material growth boost from USMCA. More detailed analysis - by sector - shows that under the scenario involving repeal of Trump tariffs (the only scenario with positive welfare impact of USMCA), only two non-agricultural sectors of the U.S. economy can expect gains in output: food manufacturing and Other Manufacturing. In contrast, six sectors are likely to see their output decline:


All in, the IMF research shows the extent of economic fudge that is the current Administration's trade and investment policy. The art of the deal seems to be the art of faking soundbites and slogans, while delivering nothing new.