Trump administration's new tariffs hit US consumers less

  • Consumer goods account for 1 percent of items on the June 15 lists from the the U.S. trade representative, down from 12 percent on the April 3 list, according to a report from the Peterson Institute for International Economics.
  • The revisions follow public pushback and come as Republicans try to hold their majority in Congress during November's midterm elections.
  • For its part, Beijing's new tariff lists "stayed far away from supply chains. They wanted to signal to the rest of the world that they are still a good place to provide value," said Mary Lovely, economics professor at Syracuse University and nonresident senior fellow at the Peterson Institute.
Workers inspect steel pipes at a steel mill of Hebei Huayang Steel Pipe Co in Cangzhou, China last March.
Muyu Xu | Reuters
Workers inspect steel pipes at a steel mill of Hebei Huayang Steel Pipe Co in Cangzhou, China last March.

The latest round of tit-for-tat tariffs hits U.S. consumers less but American companies more, an analysis shows.

Consumer goods account for just 1 percent of items on the June 15 lists from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, down from 12 percent on the April 3 list, according to a report from the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

The portion of the latest lists set for July 6 implementation also did not include cellphones, personal computers and laptops, while televisions, air conditioning and aluminum were deleted, UBS economist Tao Wang pointed out in a June 18 report.

Source: Peterson Institute for International Economics.

The revisions follow public pushback and come as Republicans try to hold their majority in Congress during November's midterm elections.

"They really decided not to go directly [due to] worry about the impact on voters," said Mary Lovely, economics professor at Syracuse University and nonresident senior fellow at the Peterson Institute.

Last Friday, the U.S. and subsequently China said a first round of additional 25 percent tariffs, each targeting about $34 billion worth of imports from the other, is set to take effect July 6. A second round valued at roughly $16 billion for each country will be implemented at an unspecified date.

The Trump administration is trying to reduce the U.S. trade deficit with China and improve intellectual property protection, although many analysts say tariffs are not an effective way to solving those issues. The trade dispute escalated this week after President Donald Trump on Monday said he has asked the U.S. trade representative to identify an additional $200 billion worth of Chinese goods for an additional 10 percent in tariffs.

Key Chinese products subject to additional US 25% tariff

Source: US Census, USTR, UBS estimates

Despite some reprieve in the revised tariff lists, U.S. consumers will likely still feel the effects of higher prices down the road.

The list raises costs for many U.S. companies sourcing components from overseas. The proportion of intermediate goods rose to 52 percent from 41 percent, the Peterson analysis showed.

Lovely pointed out that latest list of U.S. tariffs adds more components that U.S. vehicle companies need.

Key US products subject to additional China 25% tariff (effective July 6)

Source: US Census; China Customs, MOC and MOF; UBS estimates. Note: For trade data not available from China's Customs and MOC statistics, we use US Census data as references.

The second set of products also covers electronic integrated circuits, machines and parts for manufacturing semiconductor devices or electronic ICs, UBS' Wang noted. "They are products the USTR identified as benefiting from China's industrial policies (e.g. 'Made in China 2025')," Wang said.

American farmers still bear the brunt of Beijing's planned tariffs. Soybeans have remained on both the April and June lists, along with wheat and corn. The latest announcement also added a slew of seafood, and fruit and nuts.

The agricultural duties will affect the Chinese people. So will tariffs on motor cars and auto parts that remained on the June list.

But Beijing "stayed far away from supply chains. They wanted to signal to the rest of the world that they are still a good place to provide value," Lovely said.

Notably, China deleted aircraft from its latest list. That's potentially a boon to Boeing, although it still must vie with Airbus for Chinese contracts.