Quantcast
Connect with us

Could a weakening US economy imperil Trump’s trade war against China?

Published

on

President Donald Trump’s trade war with China is based on two basic and complementary assumptions: the U.S. economy is strong and, perhaps more importantly, stronger than the Chinese economy.

Last summer when the war began heating up, both assumptions were certainly true. The American economy was booming, while China’s was slowing. Hence, the U.S. was in a better position to withstand any pain in a tariff war of attrition.

ADVERTISEMENT

But the first of those assumptions, at least, is beginning to falter as signs grow of economic weakness in the U.S.

As an economist who conducts research in international trade, I believe that a weaker U.S. economy would likely affect Trump’s ability to engage in a prolonged trade war with China – no matter how much he might want to.

Signs of weakness

The U.S. economy has been expanding for a decade now, and no economy can continue to grow indefinitely. The May jobs report was the latest indicator that the party may be coming to an end.

The report showed that the U.S. economy added only 75,000 jobs that month, a significantly lower number than the 224,000 jobs added in April. Even though the unemployment rate stayed at the extremely low figure of 3.6%, worryingly, there was virtually no wage growth. In addition, another key metric, the so-called ISM Manufacturing Index, fell to its lowest level in Trump’s presidency in May.

ADVERTISEMENT

And while GDP growth has remained fairly robust, there have been other harbingers of underlying weakness in recent months, including a bond market signal that a recession may be on the horizon and a broad measure of the health of the U.S. economy that recorded its slowest increase in more than two years.

Putting this all together, it suggests a key premise behind Trump’s trade war with China may not hold up for much longer.

ADVERTISEMENT

Trade war’s role

One of the reasons to blame for economic sluggishness is the trade war itself and specifically Trump’s use of tariffs to prosecute it.

Contrary to what he has said in the past, elementary trade theory shows that tariffs not only hurt the intended target but the tariff-imposing nation as well. This fundamental theoretical prediction is now being borne out in practice.

For instance, a recent and ongoing study by a group of economists shows that the higher prices resulting from Trump’s tariffs on China have been paid largely by U.S. retailers, and some of them may soon be passed on to consumers. A separate study focused on washing machines found that tariffs resulted in an average 12% increase in the price of the appliance, whether it was imported or made domestically.

ADVERTISEMENT

Then there’s the impact of the retaliatory tariffs. Studies show that the U.S. coal, crude oil and agricultural sectors have all been detrimentally affected by Chinese tariffs imposed in response. In addition, there is reason to believe that the slowdown in American job growth is being felt most acutely in the sectors that are most susceptible to trade tensions such as manufacturing, construction, mining and logging.

In other words, if the deleterious impacts of Trump’s trade war with China continue to be felt in an economy that is weakening, it is certainly likely that there will be much greater opposition to these tariffs from industry groups and lawmakers.

These possibilities cast serious doubt on Trump’s ability to continue – let alone achieve the concessions he might need to win – a protracted trade war with China.

ADVERTISEMENT

Fed to the rescue?

Trump may end up having an unexpected ally in the Federal Reserve, however.

Evidence of weakness has already ended the U.S. central bank’s policy of monetary tightening by raising interest rates. The latest data will no doubt put considerable pressure on the Fed to actually cut rates to avoid a more sustained slowdown.

If it does, then the Fed-driven stimulation will mitigate some of the pain felt by Americans as a result of Trump’s trade war with China and continue to prosecute his trade war.

ADVERTISEMENT

High stakes

That being said, it is still too early to say definitively that the U.S. economy is cooling.

And, given Trump’s unpredictability, it’s impossible to forecast what may happen no matter what. At least for now, the president appears to have no intention of backing down.

But for me, a weakening economy adds to the reasons why this trade war is not only futile but harmful. For one thing, I believe tariffs alone cannot address the underlying structural problems that afflict U.S.-China trade.

ADVERTISEMENT

And let’s not forget that the trade war has global repercussions. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development recently warned that an escalation of this trade war – as Trump has repeatedly threatened – will damage the rest of the world, trimming 0.7% off global growth by 2021. That may not sound like much, but this trimming amounts to a whopping US$600 billion in lost economic activity.

It’s a reminder that the stakes of this war are enormous.The Conversation

Amitrajeet A. Batabyal, Arthur J. Gosnell Professor of Economics, Rochester Institute of Technology

ADVERTISEMENT

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and legal efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. And unlike other news outlets, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from billionaires and corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click to donate by check.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.



Report typos and corrections to: [email protected]. Send news tips to: [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

Why was Jeffrey Epstein buying size 5 women’s panties — while in jail?

Published

on

The Miami Herald has another bombshell report on Jeffrey Epstein, who died in a Manhattan jail while waiting to stand trial on federal sex crimes charges.

"A decade ago, during a brief stint in Palm Beach County Jail, convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein made an odd purchase at the facility’s store: two pairs of small women’s panties, size 5," the Herald reported Saturday night.

The newspaper noted, "the panties raise questions about why a childless male inmate, accused of sexually abusing girls as young as 14, would be allowed to buy female undergarments so small that they wouldn’t fit an average-sized adult woman."

Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

White nationalist Republican ridiculed after only 2 people show up for his town hall meeting

Published

on

Embattled Rep. Steve King (R-IA) suffered further humiliation on Saturday when only two people showed up for his town hall meeting with Iowa constituents.

King, who was stripped of all committee assignments for his white nationalism, was been an embarrassment for Republicans with his constant racism and misogyny.

A photo of the town hall meeting was posted on Twitter by Reuters photo editor Corinne Perkins.

https://twitter.com/corinne_perkins/status/1162806565109473280

Rep. King was quickly mocked in the comments.

Here's some of what people were saying:

https://twitter.com/sedespres/status/1162811223186006018

Continue Reading
 

2020 Election

Democrats could flip the Texas state house in 2020 — and reshape the national map

Published

on

Blue Texas? Democrats have long dreamt of winning Texas’s 38 electoral votes in the presidential election. That may still be a long shot, but a recent “Texodus” from Congress has given new talk to a political transformation across the Lone Star State that could have massive ramifications down the ballot and for decades to come.

This article was originally posted at Salon.

Four of the state’s GOP members of Congress have announced their retirements in recent weeks, an unusual torrent of departures signaling that a storm is coming. And evidence shows that it’s not just hitting Texas’s federal delegation. It’s coming to Austin, too.

Continue Reading
 
 

Thank you for whitelisting Raw Story!

As a special thank you, from now until August 31st, we're offering you a discounted rate of $5.99/month to subscribe and get ad-free access. We're honored to have you as a reader. Thank you. :) —Elias, Membership Coordinator
LEARN MORE
close-link
close-image