06 April 2018

What--If Anything--Wii This Trade War Cost Us?

I passed the only economics course I took as an undergraduate by promising the professor that he would never, ever see me again if he gave me credit for the class.  If I were to fail, I warned him, I would be forced to take the class again and he might get stuck with me for another semester.

It worked.

Well, all right. It didn't quite go that way.  I passed the class, but I didn't make any such promises or threats.  I think the prof, though, realized that I had absolutely no talent for the subject to which he devoted his life and I wanted to return to school the following semester.  In short, he seemed to feel pity for me, and might've added, oh, a point or two to my final grade.

Anyway...The point of this is that I should not, under any circumstances, be mistaken for an economist.  And, no, I didn't play one on TV. (How does one play an economist on TV?)  So, take anything that resembles economic or business forecasting on this blog with a large bottle of frame prep solution.

As you all know, El Cheeto Grande is proposing tariffs on Chinese imports.  They are in retaliation for similar fees China imposed on imports from the US--which, in turn, were a reaction to earlier tariffs Trumpf slapped on Chinese goods.

The difference between the first and second round of Trump Tariff Punch is that the later round includes a greater number of products than the first, from which consumer goods were mainly absent and, instead, included farm products and basic materials such as steel.

Although details of the second round haven't been made public, some folks who know more than I know say that simply because the second round encompasses about twice as much of what the US imports from China (by monetary value), it's likely to include consumer goods.

As to which consumer goods might be affected:  No one has said outright that bicycles will be in the crosshairs, but it's hard to imagine that they won't be.  The tariffs might even include "bike-related imports", as more than one article put it.  

So, even if you don't buy a Chinese-made bike, there's a good chance that some of the accessories or parts you hang on it will have that tax levied on it.  For example, of my six bikes, four are British (Mercian), one American (Trek) and the other Japanese (Fuji).  I don't have any Chinese parts on them, and about the only accessories from China I use are the rack, lights and handlebar wrap on the Fuji. So, if I were to buy those things today, I wouldn't be affected much, if at all.  

But in spite of my efforts to buy from companies based and operating in countries where workers are paid decently and are guaranteed some basic human rights and protections, I find that I am not "innocent", if you will.  Turns out, my Giro helmets are made in the land of Leninist Capitalism.  So are my riding glasses, gloves and a few other things I use while riding.

What gets taxed, of course, will depend on how the categories of taxed goods are defined.  If there's a group called "bicycle-related goods", or something similar, watch out!  On the other hand, the law might specify certain categories of bicycles defined by price point or wheel size, as is done in places where there is a sales tax on new bicycle sales.  Naturally, none of us would like that tax, but at least you have a clearer idea of what will and won't be taxed.

Now, if this tariff were in the works during my youth, I would have scoffed:  "Well, I don't buy such crap bikes."  These days, though, it's hard to avoid buying Chinese unless you are shopping near the top of the price scale.  Some of those bikes and parts with familiar names you've long known may no longer be made in Europe or Japan or the USA--or even Taiwan.  They may be produced in Chinese factories.

My prediciton:  Some bikes and "bike-related products" will be affected.   But I think they will be a result of falling into larger categories of imports that are affected:  Somehow I don't think that the folks who are charged with turning El Huffy's Twitter storms into international trade law are thinking about bicycles in particular.  


  1. Mm, Giro is owned by a corporation that sponsors the NRA. Same for Bell, same owner. Same for many other bicycle firms. They are hedging their bets.

  2. Hi Roger,

    I bought my helmets before I knew about the NRA connection. Getting rid of them won't change anything, but I'll have to check up on Giro the next time I have to replace a helmet.

  3. Funny, I hadn't thought much about how Trump's trade war could affect my purchases of bike parts. By coincidence I was just drooling over a pair of US-made Paul mini moto brakes for a build I'm planning. One of the saddest things about having this "Very Stable Genius" as president is that he's tragically uninformed about economic issues and he refuses advice from people who understand. He views himself as some kind of savvy negotiator. Except he's not. It's ironic that Red State farmers will suffer terribly from this nonsense.

  4. MT--From what I understand, Red State farmers might suffer most of all because of The Orange One.

    It seems that every economist and historian agrees that the Smoot-Hawley tariff act of 1930 turned a stock market crash into a full-blown depression. Moreover, history is rife with other examples of tariffs that worsened economic conditions in the country that imposed them--and, very often, elsewhere.

    Of course, El Cheeto Grande doesn't nourish himself with history, so he's not going to act as if the knows those things.