Trade

Record Imports From China in Trump’s Last Days

SK Ashby
Written by SK Ashby

Aside from the Republican party's tax cuts for corporations and wealthy shareholders, Trump's trade war with China and other parts of the world were the only economic policies to speak of during his time in office. Trump and the GOP never passed a significant infrastructure bill nor did they invest in anything else new. We never saw new investments in education, or health care, or anything beyond their regressive tariffs and tax cuts.

Ostensibly, the idea behind Trump's trade war was that it would bring factories and jobs back to the United State. Entire industries were offshored over the past several decades for various reasons and the trade war was suppose to lure them home, but it didn't and it was never going to.

In fact, there's never been a better time for China's export-driven economy which posted a record trade surplus last month backed by record exports to Trump's America.

In November, China reported a record trade surplus of $75.43 billion, propelled by an unexpected 21.1 percent surge in exports compared with the same month last year. Leading the jump were exports to the United States, which climbed 46.1 percent to $51.98 billion, also a record. [...]

Mary E. Lovely, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute, said that U.S. imports from the world were on track to be lower this year than in 2019, but that China’s overall share of U.S. imports would likely increase.

Consumer demand is so strong that it has overwhelmed the capacity of the cargo industry, leading to a record spike in shipping rates. The surge in shipments is clogging many supply chains, snarling major ports and delaying delivery of holiday gifts by up to several weeks.

The sudden surge in imports from China is being driven, in part, by our current surge of the coronavirus as people stay at home and order imported goods from Amazon and other retailers. And you might say that's 'ironic' because our current surge of the coronavirus can be largely attributed to a complete absence of leadership from Trump's White House.

Trump's trade war has been an economic failure no matter what angle you look at it from, but it's also been a failure in another, bigger way.

Both legally and rhetorically speaking, the Trump regime has invoked "national security" to place tariffs on Chinese goods ranging from solar panels to water hoses. The idea is that our reliance on imports is a threat to national security because our industries wouldn't be capable of meeting demands during a time of war. This is the legal mechanism that has allowed Trump to unilaterally impose taxes (tariffs) on a wide range of goods using executive authority. Federal law affords the president a great deal of discretion when it comes to "national security." Evidently too much.

Now, it may be true in some cases and to some extent that the flight of industry leaves us vulnerable, but you would have a hard time convincing me that China is not even stronger now than it was in 2018 before Trump launched his trade war.

All of Trump's tariffs are still on the books during the final days of his term and all we have to show for it is record imports, higher prices, and a more economically-dominant China. We are now further away -- not closer -- to containing China's growing influence.

The trade war is an impressive failure only eclipsed by Trump's failure to handle the pandemic.