Submitted by Taps Coogan on the 23rd of March 2018 to The Sounding Line.
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The US is moving to impose roughly $60 billion of tariffs on 1,300 categories of Chinese imports. China is threatening to reciprocate with $3 billion of tariffs on 150 US exports to China. With headlines flooded with warnings of a looming trade war, let’s take at look at the trade relations between the US and China.
In 2016, the most recent date for which complete data is available, the US exported goods worth $115.6 billion to China. For those wondering what the US actually exports to China, the following interactive chart breaks down those exports to China by type. You can click on each box for more detail. The largest categories of US exports to China are electronics and machines (integrated circuits, broadcasting equipment, computers, valves, pumps etc…), agricultural products (soybeans, sorghum, etc…), and cars and car parts. In addition to these categories, a large portion of the US exports to China represent food, medicines, and raw materials such as: wood, scrap paper, and scrap iron.
In return, China exported $462 billion worth of goods to the US. The largest categories of Chinese exports are electronics and machines (integrated circuits, broadcasting equipment, computers, etc…), miscellaneous goods (furniture, lights, seats, etc…), clothing, and pretty much any product you can find for sale in a ‘big box’ store in the US. The vast majority of Chinese exports to the US are finished manufactured goods. The graphic below details only $386 billion of the $462 billion of Chinese exports to the US, so about $80 billion of exports remain unspecified.
The short math of a trade war between the US and China is straightforward. The US can impose many times more tariffs on Chinese products than China can impose on the US due to the large trade imbalance. Furthermore, exports to China simply aren’t as important to the US economy as exports to the US are for China. If China truly wishes to avoid a trade war, the best course of action would be to reduce their barriers to US imports. As the following chart shows, average Chinese tariffs are twice as high as US tariffs.
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