Why duties and other actions are necessary to address trade disputes, but across the board tariffs are a blunt instrument that can lead to a devastating trade war and global recession.
In this episode you’ll learn:
- Why trade deficits are not always bad.
- How frequently has the U.S. government taken trade actions to protect national security.
- To what extent have steel and aluminum imports harmed U.S. domestic producers.
- What are the risks of using across the board tariffs versus specific duties and regulations to address trade disputes.
With President Trump recently unveiling new tariffs, many investors and economists are asking the question, “has a trade war begun?” On this episode of Money For the Rest of Us, David Stein explores this idea and explains the new tariff plans, the potential impacts on the steel and aluminum industries, and why there are better solutions to the complex trade system than just blanket tariffs.
Why new tariff plans were created and the concern surrounding national security
When President Trump unveiled his new tariff plan and claimed via Twitter that “trade wars are good and easy to win,” the stock market fell 2% and people across the world began asking countless questions. Are these tariffs going to apply to every single country, even longstanding US trade partners? How will this impact the US economy? To answer these questions, David explains that trade investigations regarding steel, aluminum and oil imports have occurred several times in the past, and one of the main goals is to determine if competition from imports is having a negative impact on national security. National security goes beyond just national defense and include impacts on the overall domestic economy.
Recent findings and insights on the 2018 aluminum report
The January 2018 report on the aluminum industry found that there is a connection between the economic welfare of the US and national security because of the loss of skills, higher amounts of foreign investments, the unemployment rate of US forces, and many other reasons. Since the US aluminum industry is only operating at 43% of capacity, and aluminum imports comprise 90% of consumption and are up 60% from 2012, the Department of Commerce determined that aluminum imports are directly impacting national security. The report found domestic aluminum production was becoming unstable and nearing a point where US forces would be unable to respond to a national emergency that would require an increased level of production.
How do the findings on the steel industry differ from those of the aluminum industry?
When compared to the findings of the aluminum study, the US steel industry and the impact of foreign steel are not nearly as dramatic. While imports have increased due to foreign competition, there’s no shortage of domestic steel. Imported steel only makes up approximately 30% of US consumption, and the Department of Commerce recommendation for taking action was because steel imports were weakening the U.S. economy rather than there being insufficient steel to meet national defense needs.
Additional solutions that could prevent a trade war and why trade needs to be viewed as a complex system
After reviewing the latest findings on steel and aluminum in the United States, David explains why there are more effective solutions to global trade and imports than just blanket tariffs. Even if tariffs are deemed to be the best solution, they should be addressed on a country-by-country basis. Existing legislation such as the Defense Production Act of 1950 and the Buy American Act of 1933 already address the issue of foreign imports. Across the board tariffs could negatively impact longstanding trade partners, and U.S. exports could be taxed at a much higher rate in the coming months. While it is normal to want to protect a nation’s workforce and industries, it cannot be done in such a way that jeopardizes a country’s ability to interact with other countries’ economies. Global trade is a complex system that must be viewed as a whole, rather than individual parts. The long-term impacts of these recent developments are sure to spark continuing conversations, but to hear a stellar synopsis of the trade issue today be sure to listen to this podcast episode of Money For the Rest of Us.
Episode Chronology[0:28] David introduces the featured question for this episode, has a trade war begun?
[4:10] Why certain aspects of trading economies can be challenging to understand
[6:20] What were the findings on the recent aluminum report?
[13:40] What were the findings on the recent steel report?
[15:34] Is the solution really blanket tariffs across all countries and industries?
[18:27] Other remedies to national security as it relates to trade and the economy
[22:21] Why global trade is a complex system and needs to be treated as such