While the market might have taken a sigh of relief yesterday when the US tried to tone down the threat of a trade war with Beijing, make no mistake, China’s debut of a new package of tariffs is nothing to take lightly. The country proposed 25% tariff hikes on 106 US imports, including big ones like soy beans, cars, and chemicals. ““America’s measures [to impose tariffs] have violated the rules of the World Trade Organization and have seriously violated China’s legal rights”, said the country’s foreign ministry. “China does not want a trade war because no one will emerge as a winner in a trade war … but if someone insists on fighting a trade war, we will be there”, said the Chinese vice-minister of commerce.
FINSUM: So we are in a catch 22 with imposing higher tariffs. China has gotten the better of the deal for decades, but changing the terms is not going to be easy because of how big a consumer the country has become.
For anyone who thinks a trade war might not hurt the US economy, or that one may be easy to win, this is an important story. Robert Shiller, famed economist, just said a trade war with China would cause quick and devastating damage to the US economy. “It’s just chaos … The immediate thing will be an economic crisis because these enterprises are built on long-term planning, they’ve developed a skilled workforce and ways of doing things”. Shiller says that even if tariffs don’t directly affect the economy, many companies will lose their confidence to plan and invest. “It’s exactly those ‘wait and see’ attitudes that cause a recession”, says Shiller.
FINSUM: So we imagine that a trade war would be very disruptive and would undermine the confidence of US companies as it would destabilize the ground on which industry has been built for the last 25+ years. However, the US has put itself at the raw end of trade deals for many years and claiming some ground back may be positive in the long-term.
Well the market took a big sigh of relief yesterday, with prices swinging back massively. One of the big reasons why was less fear over a possible trade war. In particular, China took a much more conciliatory approach this week. The country announced it would ease foreign investment rules and buy more American semiconductors, a stark move that contrasts the American push towards big tariffs on Chinese imports to the US.
FINSUM: The bottom line in the US tussle with China over tariffs is that the US has a $375 bn trade deficit to Beijing, which means we have much less to lose than them. This is probably the reason Trump referred to trade wars as easy to win.
President Trump is set to unveil a package of trade tariffs on $60 bn worth of Chinese goods. Unsurprisingly, the Chinese are preparing their retaliation, focused on US agricultural exports. However, the very interesting part is the retaliatory package will only be on $3 bn of US imports to China, much smaller than the US package. The new Chinese tariffs will be on items ranging from fruit to pork to recycled metals. One US adviser commented “All the products on the list are small potatoes, and the real important ones are U.S. farm products like soybeans and sorghum”.
FINSUM: So why is the Chinese measure so much smaller? In our view it means that they are either afraid to seriously anger the US, or that they need our imports much more than we realize. Interesting development.
Markets have been on edge for weeks, and it appears with good reason. President Trump is reportedly putting the finishing touches on a major trade tariff package that is directed at China (to the tune of $50 bn). The focus of the tariffs are on metals. In response, China is planning its own set of tariffs on US agricultural exports, especially from Farm Belt states.
FINSUM: So the US is negotiating exemptions with top allies, but is starting a trade war with China a good idea? The politically difficult aspect for Trump is that China’s retaliation against US agricultural exports will hurt the states that helped elect the president.