The HTS contains 22 sections of goods categories broken into 99 chapters covered on 3,710 pages including over 12,000 import tariffs. Are you kidding me? I didn’t even know there were 12,000 goods.
What’s my point? My point is that a trade novice evaluates or judges the change in the tariff on steel imports without any real understanding of the whole tuna. Imagine such a novice who thinks that we don’t have many tariffs and that a 25% tariff is weirdly high or unusual. In that case you might come to one kind of conclusion about steel and aluminum. I am tired of typing steel and aluminum so let’s just say S&A.
But now, after a fascinating morning with my friend Google, I know there are more than 12,000 goods tariffs. One of them is the 127% levied on Chinese paper clips. Paper clips! I found examples of very high tariffs including those on canvas sneakers, leather and foot ware, synthetic yarns, canned tuna, and a large variety of lovely foods from the EU including cured ham, truffles, oats, and mineral water.
Inasmuch, a less naïve person would interpret the newly increased S&A tariffs in a different light. A 10% or even a 25% tariff is neither startling or unusual. That does not mean I am supporting or advocating these new tariffs – it simply means we need a more realistic approach to evaluating them. From the reactions in the press, you would have thought that CNBC had purchased Fox Business News. Not so.
These new tariffs are really like a blip in the ocean. Given all the tariffs we already have on imports, I doubt these new tariffs are going to drastically change those 3,710 pages. But it is interesting that among all those 12,000 goods that somehow S&A avoided a tariff and that past attempts to levy them had been so unsuccessful.
Why do we have so many import tariffs? Is the world so unfair to the US that we had to slap on tariffs to be competitive and save US jobs? Or is this more of the same game of government spoils that is applied so routinely by companies within our borders? The government has a lot of elected officials with lovely salaries and benefits. Perhaps we have so many protections because it pays well?
I am asking more questions than I am answering. But this thing with S&A really opens a much bigger set of questions once we view it in a wider context:
Why have we not had tariffs protecting S&A when we protect so many other industries?
What does any of this have to do with US national security?
How many of these 12,000 existing tariffs improve national security?
How many other goods should have tariffs because of national security?
Do we really need any tariffs to protect national security?
How can we preach the values of competition when we seem so far from the ideal?
While the WTO made initial progress in removing barriers to trade, why is the Doha Round dead after so many years of negotiation?
Have we given up on the idea that reduced trade barriers are good for the global economy?
Where is my JD?