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With each new Liberty Street Economics post, we aim to build familiarity with New York Fed research and policy analysis, and to share the expertise of our staff when it is relevant to the issues of the day. More than sixty economists contribute, and we tap coauthors from other central banks and academia as well, so the topics vary widely, covering the alphabet of “JEL Codes” in the economics literature plus numerous policy themes. Judging from our internet traffic, we have a core group that checks in to read nearly everything. Some posts break out to a wider public, prompted by news articles that cite our findings and even a mention in a presidential candidate’s tweet. Take a look at our top five most-read posts of 2019.
The imposition of Section 301 tariffs on about half of China’s exports to the United States has coincided with a fall in imports from China and gains for other countries. The U.S.-China trade conflict also appears to be accelerating an ongoing shift in foreign direct investment (FDI) from China to other emerging markets, particularly in Asia. Within the region, Vietnam is often cited as a clear beneficiary of these trends, a rising economy that could displace China, to some extent, in global supply chains. In this note, we examine the data and conclude that Vietnam is indeed gaining market share, but is too small to replace China anytime soon.
Mary Amiti, Stephen J. Redding, and David E. Weinstein
Tariffs on $200 billion of U.S. imports from China subject to earlier 10 percent levies increased to 25 percent beginning May 10, 2019, after a breakdown in trade negotiations. In this post, we consider the cost of these higher tariffs to the typical U.S. household.
The United States imposed new import tariffs on about $283 billion of U.S. imports in 2018, with rates ranging between 10 percent and 50 percent. In this post, we estimate the effect of these tariffs on the prices paid by U.S. producers and consumers. We find that the higher import tariffs had immediate impacts on U.S. domestic prices. Our results suggest that the aggregate consumer price index (CPI) is 0.3 percent higher than it would have been without the tariffs.
This week, we published our August surveys of regional manufacturers and service firms. Our Supplemental Survey Report, released this morning, reveals how these businesses view the effects of recent trade policy on their costs, prices, sales, and profits. The results suggest that recent tariffs are raising both input costs and selling prices for local businesses, and these effects appear to be more widespread for manufacturers than for service firms.
Mary Amiti, Mi Dai, Robert C. Feenstra, and John Romalis
Import tariffs are on the rise in the United States, with a long list of new tariffs imposed in the last few months—25 percent on steel imports, 10 percent on aluminum, and 25 percent on $50 billion of goods from China—and possibly more to come. One of the objectives of these new tariffs is to reduce the U.S. trade deficit, which stood at $568.4 billion in 2017 (2.9 percent of GDP). The fact that the United States imports far more than it exports is viewed by some as unfair, so the idea is to try to reduce the amount that the nation imports from the rest of the world. While more costly imports are likely to reduce the quantity and value of imports into the United States, the story does not stop there, because we cannot presume that the value of exports will remain unchanged. In this post, we argue that U.S. exports will also fall, not only because of other countries’ retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exports, but also because the costs for U.S. firms producing goods for export will rise and make U.S. exports less competitive on the world market. The end result is likely to be lower imports and lower exports, with little or no improvement in the trade deficit.
President Trump announced a new tariff of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum imports on March 8, 2018. One objective of these tariffs is to protect jobs in the U.S. steel industry. They were introduced under a rarely used 1962 Act, which allows the government to impose trade barriers for national security reasons. Although the tariffs were initially to apply to all trading partners, Canada and Mexico are currently exempt subject to NAFTA negotiations, and implementation of the tariffs for the European Union, Argentina, Australia, and Brazil has been paused. South Korea has received a permanent exemption from the steel tariffs and will instead be subject to a quota of 70 percent of its current average steel exports to the United States. In this post, we consider how the steel tariffs could affect U.S. trade and employment. We focus on steel since the steel industry employs about three times as many workers as the aluminum industry, although qualitatively our conclusions apply to both. We argue that the new tariffs are likely to lead to a net loss in U.S. employment, at least in the short to medium run.
Mexico runs a trade surplus with the United States owing to oil exports and cross-border supply chains, with imported U.S. components assembled in Mexico and then exported back to the United States. At the same time, Mexico runs a large trade deficit with Asia, the result of a surge of imports from that region over the past two decades. From Mexico’s perspective, this growing deficit with Asia has worked to offset an increasing trade surplus with the United States. More recently, the country’s merchandise balance suffered a substantial deterioration with the collapse of petroleum prices in late 2014. The balance has subsequently staged a modest recovery, as Mexico’s demand for Asian goods in 2016 cooled while the surplus with the United States (excluding petroleum trade) continues to trend higher. These developments have helped Mexico reduce its need to borrow more from the world to make up for lost petroleum export revenues.
Mary Amiti, Caroline L. Freund, and Tyler Bodine-Smith
Supply chains have become increasingly interlinked across the U.S.-Mexico border. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), allowing tariff-free commerce between the United States, Canada, and Mexico, has facilitated this integration. Some critics of NAFTA are concerned about the bilateral trade deficit and have proposed stricter rules of origin (ROO), which would make it more cumbersome for firms to access the zero tariff rates they are entitled to with NAFTA. We argue that measures that make it costlier for U.S. firms to import will also hurt U.S. exports because much of U.S.-Mexican trade is part of global supply chains.
An underappreciated benefit of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is the protection it offers U.S. exporters from extreme tariff uncertainty in Mexico. U.S. exporters have not only gained greater tariff preferences under NAFTA than Mexican exporters gained in the United States, they have also been exempt from potential tariff hikes facing other exporters. Mexico’s bound tariff rates—the maximum tariff rate a World Trade Organization (WTO) member can impose—are very high and far exceed U.S. bound rates. Without NAFTA, there is a risk that tariffs on U.S. exports to Mexico could reach their bound rates, which average 35 percent. In contrast, U.S. bound rates average only 4 percent. At the very least, U.S. exporters would be subject to a higher level of policy uncertainty without the trade agreement.
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