The Trade War Is Suddenly Getting Worse

Chad P. Bown (PIIE)

September 20, 2019

The Trade War Is Suddenly Getting Worse

President Donald Trump’s trade plan announced on August 23 would more than double the average US tariff on imports from China in the six months between June 14 and December 15, 2019. US tariffs averaged 12.0 percent right before an increase went into effect on June 15. If Trump’s plan is implemented on schedule, the average US tariff on Chinese imports will increase to 26.6 percent.

China has timed its own tariff retaliation to coincide with Trump’s actions, also sharply escalating its average tariff on imports from the United States from 16.5 to 25.1 percent during the same six-month period.

The upcoming tariff changes are large and swift. Since 2018, the trade war has proceeded in four stages. The first six months of 2018 featured only a moderate increase in tariffs. The months of July through September 2018 also had a sharp tariff increase on both sides: US average tariffs increased from 3.8 percent to 12.0 percent, and China’s average tariffs increased from 7.2 percent to 18.3 percent. In phase three, there was an eight-month period (September 25, 2018, through June 2019) of little change in tariffs. Starting June 1, 2019, the latest phase of tariff increases kicked in.

This chart was adapted from data available in Chad P. Bown’s blog post, “US-China Trade War: The Guns of August.” It was originally published on August 29, 2019, and updated based on the Trump administration’s announcements on September 11.

Data Disclosure

The data underlying this analysis are available here.