President Trump has been leading a tumultuous trade war with the US’ largest trading partners. So far his efforts have put tariffs on many different goods, but with metals being the single most notable materials. However, a new interview with the President suggests that the metal tariffs were just an opening act to a much bigger area: autos. In an interview with Fox News yesterday, Trump said “You know, the cars are the big one … We can talk steel, we talk everything. The big thing is cars”. Trump is reportedly planning a 20% tariff on all imported cars as part of a national security measure.

FINSUM: We believe this would be a major line in the sand to the US’ trading partners. Both our Nafta partners and the EU, and maybe Japan, would be furious about this, but it is a major source of leverage for the US.


In what seems to be a perfect study in the law of untended consequences, the government’s new focus on tariffs are driving US manufacturers out of the country. American motorcycle maker Harley-Davidson (side note: can you think of a company more American than Harley-Davidson) has announced it will move some production off-shore because of retaliatory EU tariffs on American motorcycles. Europe is one of the biggest consumers of US products, including for Harley, and the company does not want to lose market share by raising prices for European consumers.

FINSUM: This is the downside of a trade war. Trump wants to have more US manufacturing jobs at home, but retaliations can cause perverse economic incentives to move manufacturing overseas.


The trade war between the US and China is intensifying. Investors will already be aware of the tit-for-tat $50 bn tariff packages the US and China have placed on each other, as well as Trump’s plan for a further $200 bn to be applied. However, the news is that Trump is now also preparing a comprehensive package of blockages to Chinese direct investment into the US. The amount of Chinese overseas investment flowing into the US has already plummeted to $1.8 bn in the first half of 2018, down from nearly $50 in 2016.

FINSUM: This trade spat just keeps escalating. The big risk is if China decides to sell US Treasuries and agency bonds as a payback, but we think that is still a few steps away.

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