The countries that pay the highest US tariffs, and the products they sell

Tariffs on China and Mexico could cost about $1,000 per American per year.

A container is loaded at the Port of Baltimore.
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images
A container is loaded at the Port of Baltimore.

After decades of U.S. trade liberalization, President-elect Donald Trump could make sweeping changes that would limit the supply of some cheap goods from abroad.

Trump has suggested using double-digit tariffs to punish companies that leave the country and to rebalance trade accounts with strong exporters — especially China. That would mark a dramatic shift from the thousands of U.S. tariffs already on the books, which levy an average trade-weighted tax of 1.5 percent on goods coming into the country.

Some countries pay close to zero overall, while others pay an average of 7 percent or higher, depending on individual trade agreements and the goods they export. Last year, total tariffs collected came to $34 billion out of $2.2 trillion in imports, or about $100 for every person in the U.S., according to a CNBC analysis of data from the U.S. International Trade Commission.

More than 40 percent of the those tariffs already come from China, and other smaller nations like Indonesia also pay a high price to access the American market.

The tariffs themselves are remarkably granular: If you're in Vietnam and want to import boys' dress shirts manufactured with man-made fibers (with less than two colors), it'll cost close to 30 percent. But Mexico could ship the same shirt for free, and anyone could import certain types of mittens without paying tariffs.

Most of the tariffs collected on incoming goods are levied on clothes, shoes and vehicles, according to CNBC's analysis. Those three product categories alone account for more than half of all duties collected, though they make up only about 2 percent of imports by value.

The import value of those clothes and shoes is worth a fraction of that for electronics, machinery and cars, but clothes and shoes are taxed at a much higher rate. On average, apparel tariffs charge 13 to 14 percent, compared with less than 1 percent for some of those other goods. That's why consumers today barely notice the cost of tariffs, while a company selling a specific product can be slammed by even a small increase.

"Some of the things we import, like electronics, don't have high tariffs, but a lot is clothing and we do have high tariffs on those items," said Bryan Riley, senior policy analyst in trade policy at the conservative Heritage Foundation. "If tariffs costs me a couple hundred dollars a year, I probably won't notice, but if you're New Balance tennis shoes it can be pretty important."

When a tariff is increased, domestic prices also go up. The price may simply be passed along to consumers, or a decline in foreign competition could put less downward pressure on the price of domestic goods. Take, for instance, the light-truck tariff known as the "chicken tax," which has protected American-made trucks from German imports for more than 50 years. (The U.S. originally introduced the tax in retaliation for a German duty on U.S. poultry imports.) When was the last time you saw a European pickup truck on the road?

Either way, the final cost of the tariff tends to fall on American consumers. For that reason, tariffs are often considered a regressive tax, since price increases tend to hit low-income Americans the hardest.

So if the current tariff load comes out to a little more than $100 per citizen, we can do a similar back-of-the-envelope calculation to determine how much tariff increases put in place against countries like China or Mexico would increase prices. If we raised tariffs on China from around 3 percent to 45 percent and Mexico from close to zero to 35 percent, that would cost companies importing goods from abroad a little more than $300 billion a year, assuming all else was equal.

If that price was passed on to consumers, that's almost $1,000 for every person in America (other analyses have suggested a similar amount or even higher) assuming the amount of Chinese and Mexican imports to the United States remained the same.

Companies tend to notice when tariffs increase costs related to their specific needs, but if we instituted sweeping new tariffs on our biggest trade partners, everyday citizens would also feel a real impact on their wallets.