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Tariffs on China Don’t Cover the Costs of Trump’s Trade War

By Ana Swanson and Jim TankersleyJuly 15, 2019

WASHINGTON — President Trump on Monday portrayed America as being on the winning end of his trade war, saying tariffs are punishing China’s economy while generating billions of dollars for the United States, an economic victory that will allow him to continue his fight without domestic harm.

“We’ve taken in tens of billions of dollars in tariffs from China,” Mr. Trump told reporters during a “Made in America” product event at the White House. While China has taken $16 billion “off the table” by stopping its purchases of American agriculture, he said, the United States has “taken in much, much more — many times that in tariffs.”

But government figures show that the revenue the United States has collected from tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods is not enough to cover the cost of the president’s bailout for farmers, let alone compensate the many other industries hurt by trade tensions. The longer Mr. Trump’s dispute with China drags on, the more difficult it could be for him to ignore that gap.

Mr. Trump’s tariffs on Chinese imports raised $20.8 billion through Wednesday, according to data from United States Customs and Border Protection. Mr. Trump has already committed to paying American farmers hurt by the trade war $28 billion.

The president has rolled out two rounds of financial support for farmers: a $12 billion package that was announced last July, of which nearly $10 billion has been spent, and an additional $16 billion announced in May.

The government has provided no such benefit to the myriad other businesses, including plane makers, technology companies and medical device manufacturers, that have lost contracts and revenue as a result of Mr. Trump’s tariffs and China’s retaliation against American goods.

Tariff revenue would likely surge if Mr. Trump followed through on his threat to impose tariffs on nearly all Chinese goods.

The administration has tried to put the levers of the government to work to shelter and support American businesses. On Monday, Mr. Trump signed an executive order requiring that 95 percent of the steel and iron that goes into projects funded by federal contracts eventually be American made, up from 50 percent.

The order is the latest in a series of proclamations that the president has made to encourage more purchases of American goods. An order in January encouraged companies to use American iron, steel, aluminum, cement and other products to the extent practical, but did not set any binding target.

John Ferriola, the chief executive of Nucor, a steel company in North Carolina, applauded the move. “We believe it’s good for our country, and it’s certainly good for the industry, I can’t deny that,” he said.


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