WASHINGTON — Trade works. Tariffs don’t. It’s as simple as that.

In the past year, the Trump administration has imposed steep, new tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of imports of all kinds — hurting budget-strapped families as well as U.S. manufacturers and farmers.

Here are five ways tariffs have brought pain to so many Americans and alienated our closest allies.

First, tariffs are taxes, and they are paid by American consumers — not foreigners. Tariff hikes have meant price hikes on everything from beer and clothing to off-road vehicles and RVs.

Second, tariffs have caused some input prices to soar, undermining the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturers. Due to tariffs, steel prices in the U.S. are roughly twice as high as in Europe, where industrial inputs are usually more expensive.

This puts pressure on businesses to offshore the manufacture of products that use a lot of steel such as nails, lockers and auto parts. For business owners, layoffs are the final recourse — resisted for as long as possible.

Third, tariffs invite retaliation against American exports. The U.S. has put tariffs on about $300 billion of imports in the past year, and these border taxes have boomeranged against U.S. exporters.

Exports of Wisconsin cheese, South Carolina-made cars, Pennsylvania apples, Kentucky bourbon, Iowa pork and Michigan metal-stampers have all been targeted with foreign tariffs. In a sense, so have the American workers and farmers who make these products.

Fourth, tariffs don’t create jobs. You would expect steel and aluminum tariffs to boost employment in the production of these metals, but employment in these sectors has been almost flat since tariffs were imposed.

Looking at the broader impact, one study found that “16 jobs would be lost for every steel or aluminum job gained.” Tariffs will result in a net loss of more than 400,000 American jobs, it concluded.

Fifth, tariffs have been imposed on America’s closest allies, including even Canada and Mexico. This undermines U.S. efforts to build an international coalition of like-minded countries to join us in combating the use of unfair trade practices.

In the case of our North American neighbors, tariffs are especially galling. In fact, the White House promised repeatedly to end these tariffs as soon as a new North American trade deal was struck — which happened months ago.

Yet the tariffs remain in place. Every week the tariffs on Canada and Mexico remain in place, approximately $500 million of U.S. imports and exports are hit with retaliatory tariffs.

The Trump administration should keep its word and end the tariffs on Canada and Mexico. This would bring immediate relief to American farmers, ranchers and manufacturers whose exports have been hit with retaliation.

Second, we need to end the multi-front, global trade war. Many of these tariffs have been applied using an old statute intended for use against imports that “impair national security.”

It’s wrong to use this law against our NATO allies and other close security and economic partners, who actually help protect our national security.

Finally, we need to expand opportunities for trade, starting with congressional approval of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

This critical agreement will preserve and strengthen U.S. trade ties to our top two export markets. We shouldn’t stop there: Securing new agreements with the European Union, Japan and the U.K. will also help our economy.

We need to end the destructive tariff war that is gnawing at our economy’s foundations before it’s too late.

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John G. Murphy is senior vice president for international policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder and a master’s degree from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. Readers may write him at U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 1615 H Street NW, Washington, DC 20062-2000


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