“Tariffs will make our country much richer than it is today,” President Trump tweeted in August. So far, there’s not much evidence of that. As the left-hand graphic above shows, U.S. exports to China have plummeted since June—while U.S. imports from China have continued to rise. Meanwhile, U.S. importers (many of whom are exporters) have seen their U.S. tariff bill more than double since May, topping $5 billion in October.
Trump’s tariff war has some clear winners, however—high among them, Russia. As shown in the left-hand graphic, Chinese imports from non-U.S. firms have continued to grow at a robust 18 percent year-over-year rate while those from U.S. firms have fallen. Among the hardest-hit U.S. sectors have been soybeans, autos, and oil. Whereas China had accounted for about 22 percent of U.S. oil exports in the two years to July 2018, it fell to zero thereafter. This has proven a boon to alternative suppliers like Russia, as shown in the right-hand figure. And so, in the ultimate irony, Americans are paying tariffs that boost the profits of Russian firms subject to U.S. sanctions.
If this is winning, Mr. President, it’s hard to imagine what losing looks like.