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VICE News

The realities of Trump's trade war

Economists worry the continuing fallout from tariffs may lead to more pain in 2019.

by VICE News
Jan 14 2019, 3:19pm

As talks intensify between U.S. and Chinese officials to tweak the terms of the ongoing trade war, the reality on the ground is painful for lots of businesses and workers, and experts worry the continuing fallout from tariffs may lead to more pain in 2019.

“Trade wars are good, and easy to win,” President Trump famously tweeted last March, then followed through on it by slapping tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. They come at a time when the Chinese economy has noticeably weakened, something people in Trump’s administration argue provides an opportunity to level the playing field after what they see as years of catastrophic trade imbalance.

But the destabilizing effects of Trump's tariffs are myriad: U.S. farmers have been hit hard, losing $12 million in soybean sales last year, for one example, and markets have taken a dive in the past few months on the certainty.

Even Apple — which Trump singled out as an emblematically American manufacturer whose product should be made in America — is having a tough start to 2019, and CEO Tim Cook mostly blames the trade war.

As Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit, a company that teaches customers how to hack their electronics, showed VICE News, making an iPhone is super hard because of the global nature of the supply chain. Even if all iPhone-component manufacturing came back to the United States, the 50-plus metal elements that make those components are sourced from many countries around the world.

“Thinking that tariffs are the magical tool that is bringing the entire supply chain, the entire ecosystem, to the United States is a task that’s larger than even Apple could accomplish,” Wiens told VICE News.

Back in August, VICE News met with Wiens, along with a host of manufacturers, economists, politicians, factory workers, and farmers dealing with the consequences of Trump's policies. What many foresaw then is coming more to fruition with each passing revenue quarter.