If you are reading this, chances are that you like to explore. To you, the earth isn’t such a large place. But to some, anything beyond the border is something to fear and fret about.
For us, the world is small enough that we are unabashed free traders. Regardless of where we may be on the planet, we would love the ability to order whatever parts we might need and have full confidence that it will arrive safely wherever we may be.
As you know, the wandering life isn’t quite so easy. Too often, something will be stuck in customs, awaiting a bribe. You can call it by its official name—a tariff or a duty—but if you don’t pay it, you aren’t going to get your order released.
We’ve pinned our location on enough maps around the world to see the massive inefficiency that governments introduce into free trade. We recognize the benefits of governments coordinating basic rules on trade, but anyone who has dealt with import or exports has learned that international commerce has become much more complicated than having to follow a few basic rules.
For the past four years, we witnessed a president that was particularly fixated on the rising prominence of China. Many of his trade directives seemed particularly intent on harming China, even if they did nothing to help Americans.
“But” we hear you interject, “but China needed to be put in its place!” China’s rapid growth all but assured that it was going to become the new big kid on the block, and that was a title America wasn’t willing to relinquish.
Whether President Trump’s political instincts told him that Americans would respond to an anti-China message, or he really has a thorn in his side about China, we don’t know. But we do know that Americans spent BILLIONS on tariffs in an effort to bring China to its knees, or at least the bargaining table.
We’ve covered the topic of tariffs before. We all know by now that despite political rhetoric, the tariff is charged to the buyer upon entry into the nation’s borders. It is the BUYER that has to pay the tariff. The cost of the tariff always finds its way to its final host, the end user.
So, now that we are forced to acknowledge that it was Americans who spent billions more on products than we would otherwise have had to, we dare to ask, was it worth it? Did we take China down a notch or two?
We know in the political world, it is impolite to look backwards to see if campaign promises were kept. It’s much more expedient to listen to the next slogan, and let bygones be bygones. Furthermore, in politics, what you say about a subject tends to carry more weight than what you do about it.
Now that we spent the money, we have to ask, was the juice worth the squeeze? At a minimum we would expect to see the trade deficit improve, right? The trade deficit was one of the primary reasons given for why we must accept having to pay the US government a fee for every product we buy from overseas. It was for our own good.
So with that in mind, we can’t help but take a peek at the numbers. After four years of tightening the screws on China, are their exports declining? Ugh. Not only did they not decline, but their exports were UP 18% on the year, and China’s trade surplus hit an all-time high of $78.2 billion.
How did the US trade deficit fare?
The US is screaming towards a record trade deficit, despite our trade war's best efforts. If we're paying more in tariffs now, it would make sense that we would be producing more for ourselves, thus importing less. And if our economy was strong we would also be exporting more. That would result in a decreasing trade deficit. Yet, here we are, seeing the exact opposite.
To continue this article would begin to sound politic and we already said we are free traders at heart. So, all we will say is...ouch.