Did you know there are roughly 730,000 almonds in a ton? If President Trump’s suggested tariffs on steel and aluminum become policy, you’re probably going to have eat, say, 2,000 almonds a day to help keep our local economy on track.
That’s because we grow roughly 230,000 tons of almonds in Merced County, roughly a ton for every person living here. If we can’t sell those almonds in places like China, the European Union or Mexico, then we’re going to have to eat a lot more of them ourselves.
When one country penalizes another by levying extra fees its products, the other country – say, oh, China – will penalize our products in retaliation. What does China import heavily? Food. Specifically, about 100,000 tons of almonds each year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And with Australia vastly increasing its almond production, well, it’s not as if China can’t get its nuts somewhere else. The same is true of walnuts, peaches, dairy products and a whole lot more.
Some 45 million metric tons of food grown in the United States ends up in China. Sales there will fall as it becomes more expensive. There’s more. As steel becomes more expensive here, we’ll pay more for tomato sauce. That’s because most of it comes in cans, and those cans – so shiny we call them “brights” – will cost 25 percent more when cheaper steel disappears. A trade war might help a few thousand steel workers, but it’s nothing but bad for our Valley. Others agree.
Los Angeles Times – President Trump (tweeted): “When a country (USA) is losing many billions of dollars on trade with virtually every country it does business with, trade wars are good, and easy to win.” Economists across the country reacted by spewing their coffee in horror. At least Trump acknowledges a trade war would ensue if he follows through on his threat to slap a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on imported aluminum. Other countries would waste no time retaliating, and the economic conflagration would begin. ... Trade wars, like shooting wars, are waged to inflict casualties. And like shooting wars, they tend to escalate. The best approach is not to start one.
New York Times – As with so many other policies (President Trump) has supported, he appears to have little understanding of this one. ... (Even) Trump’s chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn, appeared to be caught off guard; Cohn warned he might resign if Trump went through with the tariff plan. Ostensibly (the move is) aimed at punishing China, which has been driving down prices by producing far more metal than the world can use. But Trump’s move will have a limited effect on China because much of the steel and aluminum the U.S. imports actually comes from Canada, Brazil, South Korea and Mexico.
(Tokyo) Yomiuri Shimbun – Slapping each other with countermeasures will impair the free-trade system that the United States has promoted consistently since the end of Word War II. It is the wrong decision.
Bloomberg View – It’s always dangerous to say Donald Trump has set a new low for presidential discourse, because he sets new lows with dreary regularity. Nonetheless, his heedless declaration that “trade wars are good, and easy to win” deserves special recognition. No president should need to be told that trade wars are, in fact, bad and impossible to win. By imposing new tariffs on steel and aluminum, Trump has embarked on a policy that is a clear and present danger to U.S. jobs and living standards. ... Tariffs will raise prices for U.S. consumers and put U.S. companies at a serious disadvantage in export markets. ... Yet boasting about how easy it is to win a trade war ... adds an element of historical and strategic obliviousness to the administration’s economic incompetence.