Trump’s Tariffs Risk America’s Future with Asia

Photo courtesy of the Associated Press

President Trump’s tariffs affect commodities such as solar panels.

President Donald Trump P’00, who campaigned on a promise to create more jobs for American workers, slapped steep tariffs on imports of solar panels and washing machines — industries mainly driven by countries in East Asia such as South Korea and China — in hopes that these tariffs, and the resulting higher international production costs, would stop American corporations from manufacturing products abroad.

The decision to levy tariffs will cause detrimental and damaging effects to not just the American, but the global economy.  On top of that, tariffs will worsen an already fragile economic and political relationship with East Asian countries.  These countries are politically, militaristically, and economically valuable to our nation as South Korea provides the U.S. with military bases and China provides the U.S. with important economic deals.

The notion that these tariffs would harm the U.S. Economy seems counterintuitive.  Why wouldn’t higher manufacturing costs abroad force American companies to start producing in their home country, all the while making new jobs for American citizens?  For one, the cost to manufacture products such as solar panels will still be significantly cheaper in South Korea where the technology for cheaper production has been developing for a while — even with tariffs.  Plus, American-owned factories on American soil are much more automated, meaning that they require a fewer number of workers to operate.  Statistics from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) corroborates this argument, as this decision “effectively will cause the loss of roughly 23,000 American jobs this year.” Moreover, tariffs would lead to higher prices paid by consumers, which will shrink demand for a common household appliance in washing machines and weaken, not boost, the American economy.  These outcomes only show the tariff’s possible damages on the domestic economy.

With these devastating effects on the domestic and global economy aside, by introducing these tariffs obviously aimed at South Korea and China, Mr. Trump further deteriorates an already vulnerable alliance with those countries.  China has expressed its discontentment with these new tariffs and is expected to challenge the tariffs to the World Trade Organization (WTO), while South Korea has already challenged these tariffs to the WTO.  This signals that these countries may be retaliating with tariffs of their own against the United States. Rapid retaliations such as these tariff requests from South Korea show that these countries will defend their own national interests and support their domestic economies first rather than maintaining trade deals and economic relationships with the United States, for which Mr. Trump seems to have no regard.  This not only creates an economic harm for the countries involved, but also causes rifts in the political relationships that damage the diplomacy and civility between the United States and other nations.

These tariffs will accomplish nothing for the American economy.  If Mr. Trump is to provide for the American economy, he must start treating multinational trade agreements tactfully, and stop threatening other nations. He has already backed out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, and has signaled he will withdraw the United States from the North American Free Trade Agreement between Mexico and Canada if his demands for that deal are not met. Diplomacy is a two-way street. If he continues to disrespect other nations and their national interests when negotiating, Mr. Trump will inevitably alienate himself and his country from crucial multinational trade agreement discussions that very well may be beneficial to our economy.  Our president must also stop conducting surface-level analyses of the effects his actions will have and must put in the diligent time, effort, and thought into creating trade agreements with foreign entities that benefit both countries if he is to fulfill his promise of improving the American economy and “bringing jobs back” to the middle class.

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