How Special Interests Hide the True Costs of Tariffs

Consider how easy it was for Mr. Trump to get a 25 percent tariff on steel imports. His administration simply concocted a fanciful national-security narrative about why the steel industry needed protection from foreign steel imports — this despite the industry’s enjoying a 70 percent share of the United States steel market and despite the Department of Defense finding no national-security harm from global steel imports.

.. For example, for the projected impact of the steel tariffs, numbers produced by the Commerce Department show that they may increase employment in the metals industry by 14,000 jobs. But the report also says that a significantly larger number of jobs will be destroyed, as a result of these tariffs, in industries downstream from metal production.

.. Under the current system, if Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross decides to protect his friends and business interests in the steel industry, he can ignore the damage that his own data show the tariffs will inflict on some of the 6.5 million workers in America’s steel-consuming industries. His sole lawful obligation is to demonstrate that the economic fortunes of the 140,000 steel employees will be promoted by the tariffs.

.. when I.T.C. commissioners make their determinations in such cases, they’re actually forbidden by statute from considering the impact of these so-called trade remedies on downstream industries — those consumers of goods and services hit by the tariffs.

.. The good news is that there’s an easy fix: Change the statutes so that commissioners are required to consider the effects of trade restrictions on downstream industries and consumers.

.. Today, steel executives have an iron grip on the White House thanks to the deep ties of the president’s advisers to the industry.

  • Mr. Ross made his fortune buying and selling steel companies and was sitting on a steel company’s board until his confirmation as commerce secretary.
  • Robert Lighthizer, a private lawyer who represented the steel industry for years, is now the United States trade representative.
  • The upper levels of both the Office of the United States Trade Representative and the Commerce Department have predictably been populated by other individuals with close ties to Big Steel. And the
  • trade adviser Peter Navarro’s 2012 documentary, “Death by China,” was funded by one of the top beneficiaries of these tariffs — the steel producer Nucor.

This cronyism explains how the steel industry is directly involved in deciding which companies do or don’t receive exemptions from the steel tariffs and why so few exemptions have been granted.

Farmers like me put Trump in office. Now his trade war is smothering us.

Farmers use a lot of steel, which Trump subjected to a 25 percent tariff in March. Combines, grain bins, fencing and cattle gating, which we are constantly upgrading and replacing, have become significantly more expensive as steel prices have jumped because of the tariffs. This has taken a painful bite out of our already-slim profit margins.

.. More than one-third of U.S. soybeans, the second-biggest crop in the nation, goes to China — about $12.4 billion worth. Since May, soybean prices have dipped about $2 per bushel to about $8.50 as export markets have dried up. For every dollar lower a bushel, farmers lose about 10 percent of their revenue.

.. pork exports to China are down nearly 20 percent this year. China is an especially valuable market for pork farmers because it purchases the lower-value portions of the hogs, such as the tongue and ears, that are difficult to sell elsewhere. As a result of the limited export markets, meat is piling up in U.S. cold-storage warehouses. Since May, prices of lean hog futures have fallen by 14 percent.

.. Congress should rally behind potential legislation by Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) that would give lawmakers more say in U.S. tariff policy, in line with the U.S. Constitution. This will allow elected representatives from American manufacturing and farming communities an opportunity to make their voices heard and deliver the message that farmers want trade, not aid.

.. Such legislation would also return tariff power to Congress, whose enumerated powers under the Constitution include the “Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises.”

.. Trump must listen to his manufacturing and farming constituents who put him in office and pursue trade agreements that help us increase our gross and net earnings without corporate welfare. That starts with shelving plans to open a new front in the trade war with China.

Trump’s trade war is economic suicide

When President Trump imposed a 25 percent tariff on steel imports last month, America’s largest nail manufacturer had little choice but to raise its prices. Mid Continent Nail Corporation quickly lost 50 percent of its orders as customers opted for cheaper suppliers. Within weeks, the firm had to lay off 60 workers. Up to 200 more might lose their jobs by the end of this month.

If the tariff isn’t lifted, the company could fold by September.

Mid Continent and its employees are early victims in Trump’s trade war. There will be many more if the president continues to raise import costs and anger our trading partners.

..  American consumers — not foreigners — will ultimately pay the bulk of the price for these trade obstructions. The economics are simple.

Consider cars. Trump has long made clear that he wants Americans to pay higher prices for cars coming into the nation. On the campaign trail, he promised a tariff of 35 percent on “every car, every truck, and every part manufactured in Ford’s Mexico plant that comes across the border.”  This past March, he threatened to impose tariffs on Europe’ automobile manufacturers.

But even cars produced domestically will rise in price thanks to the president’s economically illiterate trade interventions. As raw materials such as steel and aluminum rise in price, the cost of manufacturing each vehicle will rise. Manufacturers will pass those higher costs on to consumers.

Even beer and soda manufacturers are fretting about higher aluminum costs!