Americans have been suffering since President Trump decided to ignite a global trade war earlier this year. As things tend to do in this administration, the problem is about to get worse. On Monday night, Trump officially imposed a new round of tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods. The goods will be taxed at 10 percent beginning September 24th, and move to 25 percent in January unless China suddenly decides to give in to Trump’s demands. “For months, we have urged China to change these unfair practices, and give fair and reciprocal treatment to American companies,” Trump wrote. “We have been very clear about the type of changes that need to be made, and we have given China every opportunity to treat us more fairly. But, so far, China has been unwilling to change its practices.”
The president chimed in on Twitter the following morning. Though he mentions that China is “attacking” America’s farmers, the country is only doing so in the form of retaliatory tariffs that would never have been imposed if Trump hadn’t slapped a 25 percent tax on $50 billion in Chinese goods back in June. As expected, China will retaliate on the latest round of tariffs by taxing $60 billion in American goods.
A key difference between this new round of tariffs and those that have already been imposed is that the $200 billion in goods will encompass a large number of common retail products manufactured in China. In August, three days of hearings were scheduled to take place regarding the proposal, but when close to 400 companies showed up to attempt to get their products taken off the list of goods to be taxed, the United States Trade Representative was forced to tack on three days of additional discussions. Opposition to the tariffs was nearly universal, with business leaders arguing that because they would be unable to effectively replicate Chinese manufacturing in the U.S., both companies and consumers were going to suffer. “We’re supportive of the president’s desire to protect U.S. businesses, continue economic growth and bring jobs to the U.S.,” ’47 Brand hat company Vice President Jim Day told the New York Times. “Our position is this proposed tariff increase would do the opposite.”
The six days of hearings resulted in around 300 products being dropped from the list of taxed goods, and Trump’s preferred tax of 25 percent was also dropped until January to diminish the tariffs’ effect on holiday shoppers. The 10 percent tax due to go into effect September 24th is not insignificant, however. Don’t tell that to billionaire Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who is so out of touch with the American consumer that he famously went on TV to brandish a can of soup in an effort to defend Trump’s proposed steel and aluminum tariffs in March. He was back in action last night, arguing that no one will notice the effect of the new tariffs on Chinese goods because they’re “spread across thousands and thousands of products.”
While Trump likely sees the booming American economy as leverage over China, the dispute isn’t likely to end anytime soon. China has shown no inclination to cow to Trump’s demands and, as former national security council staff member and Asia-Pacific expert Abigail Grace points out, “the highly public nature of the trade war disincentives Beijing from making concessions,” as President Xi can’t be seen as backing down in the face of pressure from Trump. The two world leaders will meet at the G20 summit in November, and if the two leaders aren’t able to reach an agreement then, it could be another year before any real progress is made.
Though Trump has made a big show of expressing concern for farmers and other American workers who have been affected by his trade war, he’s clearly enjoying it. On Monday morning, he cast the dispute in the mold of a reality show, debuting a You’re fired!-style catch phrase to slap on disobedient nations.
In other words: China, you’ve just been Tariffed!
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