Trump’s Tariffs Cost American Businesses $46 Billion

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

American businesses and consumers have paid tens of billions of dollars in stealth taxes under Trump's trade war and at least $46 billion of it has come directly from American companies according to the Commerce Department.

Between February of 2018 and the end of 2019, businesses paid at least $37 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods alone but, more importantly, a review of the data shows that sales have not recovered even in cases where tariffs were lifted.

The lion’s share of the higher tariff costs, some $37.3 billion, stemmed from duties on imports from China, said Washington-based consultancy Trade Partnership Worldwide, which calculated cumulative tariff costs through November 2019, the latest data available.

Exports of U.S. goods hit by retaliatory tariffs from China and other countries fell by 23% in the 12 months ended November, compared with 2017, before the tariffs began, the analysis showed. Even when retaliatory tariffs have ended, those exports haven't bounced back, said Trade Partnership Vice President Dan Anthony.

More specifically, exports to Mexico and Canada did not recover after their retaliatory tariffs were lifted.

After Washington rolled back these tariffs for Mexico and Canada, the two countries eliminated retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods in May, but U.S. exports of affected products have not rebounded.

“The expectation was that trade would start growing again, but that hasn’t happened in the last six months,” Anthony said. “It raises questions about all other exports that have declined. There’s no guarantee that those sales will rebound if or when those retaliatory tariffs go away.”

This has been one of the biggest risks of Trump's trade war; that American businesses would permanently lose access to foreign markets even if Trump ends his trade war.

The trade war has opened windows of opportunity for foreign businesses to move in where American businesses have fallen out of favor for political or financial reasons and once the new partners move in there may not be any good reason to turn back toward Americans.

Beyond the immediate crisis of Trump's trade war, foreign importers and markets are undoubtedly considering the fact that American voters are only ever another four years away from electing another flying monkey as president who could unilaterally destroy their business just as Trump has. That has to be a factor in whether or not American businesses can regain access to markets that took decades to open up in the first place.

The amount of taxes American businesses have paid on foreign goods will climb far beyond $46 billion in 2020 because Trump's trade war is not ending and "phase one" of his "greatest and biggest deal ever" will only partially roll back tariffs from 15 to 7.5 percent on a slice of Chinese goods, not all of them. Most goods will still face tariffs of up to 25 percent for the foreseeable future and eliminating tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum isn't even under discussion.

  • muselet

    US companies have spent billions in tariffs and have lost—and may never regain—market share internationally because of Donald Trump’s various trade wars, and yet there’s no sign that US business is collectively going to abandon its support for Trump in favor of someone sane.

    I’d like to see the spreadsheets that show that tax cuts are better for a business’s bottom line than actually being able to sell things.