Tariffs don’t just make summer more expensive, they also make it potentially more dangerous.
“Life Saver is not a misnomer,” writes Neil Mooney, an attorney representing Life Saver Pool Fence Systems, Inc., in testimony submitted earlier this month to the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC), which more later this week will hold a hearing on the economic impact of the slew of tariffs imposed by the Trump administration in 2018.
For a company like Life Saver, which makes fencing designed to keep children away from unsupervised pools where they could accidentally drown, the tariffs have increased the cost of raw materials imported from China. In his written testimony, Mooney estimates that the company has paid about $1.2 million in tariffs over the past four years and had to raise prices twice “specifically because of the tariffs.”
“The imposition of Section 301 tariffs forced Life Saver to raise prices, which inevitably led to lower sales volume and therefore fewer protected pools,” Mooney writes. “The economic impact of Section 301 tariffs is not only felt by Life Saver and other similar companies and their employees, but also by end consumers – American families.”
Are higher taxes on imports made in China worth leaving American children slightly less safe?
Apparently yes, at least for the last two presidential administrations. Former President Donald Trump used Section 301 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1974 to impose tariffs on a wide range of goods imported from China in phases in 2018 and 2019. As a result, the average tariff rate applied to goods from China has effectively doubled. Cumulatively, Americans paid about $136 billion in additional costs due to these import taxes, or about $1,000 per household, according to a study by the National Taxpayers Union, a nonprofit organization that looks opposed to tariffs.
Customs duties also contribute to inflation. A study by the Peterson Institute for International Economics, a trade-focused think tank, found that repealing tariffs could reduce headline inflation by around 1 percentage point. Despite this, the Biden administration has so far been unwilling to do more than talk about repealing the Trump-imposed tariffs.
Perhaps this week’s hearing before the USITC will make the case for a new business strategy. On Thursday, business owners and industry lobbyists will have a chance to explain how the tariffs have led to slower growth and higher consumer prices. Later this year, the commission is expected to release a report that could help guide US trade policy going forward (though it’s worth noting that a series of similar hearings in 2018 did nothing to stop the trade policy). assault on tariffs, despite dozens of business owners testifying against them).
Pool fencing is, of course, just one example of a niche product that has been plagued by four years of an ineffective trade war. Other companies and trade associations set to testify on Thursday include manufacturers of outdoor equipment, sporting goods and brewers.
Fred Ferguson, vice president of Vista Outdoor, a Minnesota-based company that makes a line of bike accessories, including helmets, will tell the commission that the United States should “completely cancel tariffs on headgear protective gear used for safety purposes for cyclists and other action sports”. participants,” according to a written statement submitted earlier this month.
Tariffs on pool fences and bicycle helmets make about as much sense as tariffs on personal protective equipment that left US hospitals winter 2020 less prepared to fight the COVID pandemic -19. They are also a helpful illustration of how Trump and Biden’s trade policies could actively harm Americans in ways that go beyond raising prices.