July 30, 2018
A few weeks ago, SocGen asked what is arguably the most important question relating to the global trade wars: are tariffs inflationary or deflationary? While there were various nuances, its conclusion was simple: “Inflationary short term, disinflationary medium term.“
It appears that the “short-term” part has now arrived, because after several rounds of tit-for-tat tariffs and retaliations between the US and China, American consumers are about to be hit with sharply higher prices as tariffs on industrial metals put pressure on U.S. manufacturers.
In May, President Trump imposed steel and aluminum tariffs on the EU, Canada, and Mexico to help preserve America’s manufacturing base. The response: steel and aluminum prices have risen 33% and 11% respectively since the beginning of the year, as manufacturers began to price in the tariffs.
Moreover, tariffs on additional imported products from China have added even more costs for producers, which are now being aggressively passed through to the consumer.
“You’re going to see higher prices passed on to consumers…almost immediately” Matt Gold, a former deputy assistant U.S. Trade Representative for North America under former President Barack Obama, told CNBC. “A lot of goods are already warehoused that were imported months ago, so it takes a bit of time to catch up, but prices catch up pretty fast,” he added.
“The way it works is that a U.S. importer pays the taxes to the customs duties or customs tariffs to the U.S. Treasury,” Gold explained. “Of course, that’s going to effect the sale price [and] whatever price at which the exporter sells to the importer is going to lower, because the importer has to pay duties in addition to paying the purchase price.”
Gold added that for American consumers, those soaring costs would be spread “really across the board. With Chinese retaliatory…