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Tariff Tracker: Tracking the Economic Impact of the Trump-Biden Tariffs

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Trump Tariffs & Biden Tariffs: Economic Impact of the Trade War





















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19 min readBy: Erica York

Key Finding

  • The Trump administration imposed nearly $80 billion worth of new taxes on Americans by levying tariffs on thousands of products valued at approximately $380 billion in 2018 and 2019, amounting to one of the largest taxA tax is a mandatory payment or charge collected by local, state, and national governments from individuals or businesses to cover the costs of general government services, goods, and activities.
    increases in decades.
  • The Biden administration has kept most of the Trump administration tariffs in place, and in May 2024, announced tariffTariffs are taxes imposed by one country on goods or services imported from another country. Tariffs are trade barriers that raise prices and reduce available quantities of goods and services for U.S. businesses and consumers.
    hikes on an additional $18 billion of Chinese goods, including semiconductors and electric vehicles, for an additional tax increase of $3.6 billion.
  • We estimate the Trump-Biden tariffs will reduce long-run GDP by 0.2 percent, the capital stock by 0.1 percent, and employment by 142,000 full-time equivalent jobs.
  • Altogether, the trade war policies currently in place add up to $79 billion in tariffs based on trade levels at the time of tariff implementation and excluding behavioral and dynamic effects.
  • Before accounting for behavioral effects, the $79 billion in higher tariffs amounts to an average annual tax increase on US households of $625. Based on actual revenue collections data, trade war tariffs have directly increased tax collections by $200 to $300 annually per US household, on average. Both estimates understate the cost to US households because they do not factor in the lost output, lower incomes, and loss in consumer choice the tariffs have caused.
  • Candidate Trump has proposed significant tariff hikes as part of his presidential campaign; we estimate that if imposed, his proposed tariff increases would hike taxes by another $524 billion annually and shrink GDP by at least 0.8 percent, the capital stock by 0.7 percent, and employment by 684,000 full-time equivalent jobs. Our estimates do not capture the effects of retaliation, nor the additional harms that would stem from starting a global trade war.
  • Academic and governmental studies find the Trump-Biden tariffs have raised prices and reduced output and employment, producing a net negative impact on the US economy.

The Trade War Timeline

The Trump administration imposed several rounds of tariffs on steel, aluminum, washing machines, solar panels, and goods from China, affecting more than $380 billion worth of trade at the time of implementation and amounting to a tax increase of nearly $80 billion. The Biden administration has maintained most tariffs, except for the suspension of certain tariffs on imports from the European Union, the replacement of tariffs with tariff-rate quotas (TRQs) on steel and aluminum from the European Union and United Kingdom and imports of steel from Japan, and the expiration of the tariffs on washing machines after a two-year extension. In May 2024, the Biden administration announced additional tariffs on $18 billion of Chinese goods for a tax increase of $3.6 billion.

Altogether, the trade war policies currently in place add up to $79 billion in tariffs based on trade levels at the time of tariff implementation. Note the total revenue generated will be less than our static estimate because tariffs reduce the volume of imports and are subject to evasion and avoidance (which directly lowers tariff revenues) and they reduce real income (which lowers other tax revenues).

Section 232, Steel and Aluminum

In March 2018, President Trump announced the administration would impose a 25 percent tariff on imported steel and a 10 percent tariff on imported aluminum. The value of imported steel totaled $29.4 billion and the value of imported aluminum totaled $17.6 billion in 2018. Based on 2018 levels, the steel tariffs would have amounted to $9 billion and the aluminum tariffs to $1.8 billion. Several countries, however, have been excluded from the tariffs.

In early 2018, the US reached agreements to permanently exclude Australia from steel and aluminum tariffs, use quotas for steel imports from Brazil and South Korea, and use quotas for steel and aluminum imports from Argentina.

In May 2019, President Trump announced that the US was lifting tariffs on steel and aluminum from Canada and Mexico.

In 2020, President Trump expanded the scope of steel and aluminum tariffs to cover certain derivative products, totaling approximately $0.8 billion based on 2018 import levels.

In August 2020, President Trump announced that the US was reimposing tariffs on aluminum imports from Canada. The US imported approximately $2.5 billion worth of non-alloyed unwrought aluminum, resulting in a $0.25 billion tax increase. About a month later, the US eliminated the 10 percent tariff on Canadian aluminum that had just been reimposed.

In 2021 and 2022, the Biden administration reached deals to replace certain steel and aluminum tariffs with tariff rate quota systems, whereby certain levels of imports will not face tariffs, but imports above the thresholds will. TRQs for the European Union took effect on January 1, 2022; TRQs for Japan took effect on April 1, 2022; and TRQs for the UK took effect on June 1, 2022. Though the agreements on steel and aluminum tariffs will reduce the cost of tariffs paid by some US businesses, a quota system similarly leads to higher prices, and further, retaining tariffs at the margin continues the negative economic impact of the previous tariff policy.

Tariffs on steel, aluminum, and derivative goods currently account for $2.7 billion of the $79 billion in tariffs, based on initial import values. Current retaliation against Section 232 steel and aluminum tariffs targets more than $6 billion worth of American products for an estimated total tax of approximately $1.6 billion.

Section 301, Chinese Products

Under the Trump administration, the United States Trade Representative began an investigation of China in August 2017, which culminated in a March 2018 report that found China was conducting unfair trade practices.

In March 2018, President Trump announced tariffs on up to $60 billion of imports from China. The administration soon published a list of about $50 billion worth of Chinese products to be subject to a new 25 percent tariff. The first tariffs began July 6, 2018, on $34 billion worth of Chinese imports, while tariffs on the remaining $16 billion went into effect August 23, 2018. These tariffs amount to a $12.5 billion tax increase.

In September 2018, the Trump administration imposed another round of Section 301 tariffs—10 percent on $200 billion worth of goods from China, amounting to a $20 billion tax increase.

In May 2019, the 10 percent tariffs increased to 25 percent, amounting to a $30 billion increase. That increase had been scheduled to take effect beginning in January 2019, but was delayed.

In August 2019, the Trump administration announced plans to impose a 10 percent tariff on approximately $300 billion worth of additional Chinese goods beginning on September 1, 2019, but soon followed with an announcement of schedule changes and certain exemptions.

In September 2019, the Trump administration imposed “List 4a,” a 10 percent tariff on $112 billion of imports, an $11 billion tax increase. They announced plans for tariffs on the remaining $160 billion to take effect on December 15, 2019.

In August 2019, the Trump administration decided that 4a tariffs would be 15 percent rather than the previously announced 10 percent, a $5.6 billion tax increase.

In December 2019, the administration reached a “Phase One” trade deal with China and agreed to postpone indefinitely the stage 4b tariffs of 15 percent on approximately $160 billion worth of goods that were scheduled to take effect December 15 and to reduce the stage 4a tariffs from 15 percent to 7.5 percent in January 2020, reducing tariff revenues by $8.4 billion.

In May 2024, the Biden administration published its required statutory review of the Section 301 tariffs, deciding to retain them and impose higher rates on $18 billion worth of goods. The new tariff rates range from 25 to 100 percent on semiconductors, steel and aluminum products, electric vehicles, batteries and battery parts, natural graphite and other critical materials, medical goods, magnets, cranes, and solar cells. Some of the tariff increases go into effect immediately, while others are scheduled for 2025 or 2026. Based on 2023 import values, the increases will add $3.6 billion in new taxes.

Section 301 tariffs on China currently account for $77 billion of the $79 billion in tariffs, based on initial import values. China has responded to the United States’ Section 301 tariffs with several rounds of tariffs on more than $106 billion worth of US goods, for an estimated tax of nearly $11.6 billion.

WTO Dispute, European Union

In October 2019, the United States won a nearly 15-year-long World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute against the European Union. The WTO ruling authorized the United States to impose tariffs of up to 100 percent on $7.5 billion worth of EU goods. Beginning October 18, 2019, tariffs of 10 percent were to be applied on aircraft and 25 percent on agricultural and other products.

In summer 2021, the Biden administration reached an agreement to suspend the tariffs on the European Union for five years.

Section 201, Solar Panels and Washing Machines

In January 2018, the Trump administration announced it would begin imposing tariffs on washing machine imports for three years and solar cell and module imports for four years as the result of a Section 201 investigation.

In 2021, the Trump administration extended the washing machine tariffs for two years through February 2023, and they have now expired.

In 2022, the Biden administration extended the solar panel tariffs for four years, though later provided temporary two-year exemptions for imports from four Southeast Asian nations beginning in 2022, which account for a significant share of solar panel imports.

In 2024, the Biden administration removed separate exemptions for bifacial solar panels from the Section 201 tariffs. Additionally, the temporary two-year exemptions expired and the Biden administration is further investigating solar panel imports from the four Southeast Asian nations for additional tariffs.

We estimate the solar cell and module tariffs amounted to a $0.2 billion tax increase based on 2018 import values and quantities, while the washing machine tariffs amounted to a $0.4 billion tax increase based on 2018 import values and quantities.

We exclude the tariffs from our tariff totals given the broad exemptions and small magnitudes.

Tariff Revenue Collections under the Trump-Biden Tariffs

As of March 2024, the trade war tariffs have generated more than $233 billion of higher taxes collected for the US government from US consumers. Of that total, $89 billion, or about 38 percent, was collected during the Trump administration, while the remaining $144 billion, or about 62 percent, has been collected during the Biden administration.

Before accounting for behavioral effects, the $79 billion in higher tariffs amount to an average annual tax increase on US households of $625. Based on actual revenue collections data, trade war tariffs have directly increased tax collections by $200 to $300 annually per US household, on average. The actual cost to households is higher than both the $600 estimate before behavioral effects and the $200 to $300 after, because neither accounts for lower incomes as tariffs shrink output, nor the loss in consumer choice as people switch to alternatives that do not face tariffs.

Economic Effects of Imposed and Retaliatory Tariffs

Using the Tax Foundation’s General Equilibrium Model, we estimate the Trump-Biden Section 301 and Section 232 tariffs will reduce long-run GDP by 0.2 percent, the capital stock by 0.1 percent, and hours worked by 142,000 full-time equivalent jobs. The reason tariffs have no impact on pre-tax wages in our estimates is that, in the long run, the capital stock shrinks in proportion to the reduction in hours worked, so that the capital-to-labor ratio, and thus the level of wages, remains unchanged. Removing the tariffs would boost GDP and employment, as Tax Foundation estimates have shown for the Section 232 steel and aluminum tariffs.

We estimate the retaliatory tariffs stemming from Section 232 and Section 301 actions total approximately $13.2 billion in tariff revenues. Retaliatory tariffs are imposed by foreign governments on their country’s importers. While they are not direct taxes on US exports, they raise the after-tax price of US goods in foreign jurisdictions, making them less competitively priced in foreign markets. We estimate the retaliatory tariffs will reduce US GDP and the capital stock by less than 0.05 percent and reduce full-time employment by 27,000 full-time equivalent jobs. Unlike the tariffs imposed by the United States, which raise federal revenue, tariffs imposed by foreign jurisdictions raise no revenue for the US but result in lower US output.

Trade Volumes since Tariffs Were Imposed

Since the tariffs were imposed, imports of affected goods have fallen, even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the biggest drops are the result of decreased trade with China, as affected imports decreased significantly after the tariffs and still remain below their pre-trade war levels. Even though trade with China fell after the imposition of tariffs, it did not fundamentally alter the overall balance of trade, as the reduction in trade with China was diverted to increased trade with other countries.

Economic Effects of Proposed Tariffs

Tariffs have become a flashpoint in the 2024 presidential campaign as candidate Trump has proposed a new 10 percent universal tariff on all imports and a 60 percent tariff on all imports from China, as well as potentially higher tariffs on EVs from China or across the board.

In 2023, goods imports totaled $3.1 trillion and imports from China totaled $421.4 billion. With no behavioral effects, the universal tariff would raise taxes by $311 billion, while separately lifting the average tariff rate on Chinese goods to 60 percent would raise about $213 billion. Actual revenue raised would be significantly lower because of avoidance and evasion, falling imports, and lower incomes resulting in lower payroll and income tax revenues.

We estimate the proposed tariffs would reduce long-run GDP by 0.8 percent, the capital stock by 0.7 percent, and hours worked by 684,000 full-time equivalent jobs. The reason tariffs have no impact on pre-tax wages in our estimates is that, in the long run, the capital stock shrinks in proportion to the reduction in hours worked, so that the capital-to-labor ratio, and thus the level of wages, remains unchanged.

Tariffs Raise Prices and Reduce Economic Growth

Economists generally agree free trade increases the level of economic output and income, while conversely, trade barriers reduce economic output and income. Historical evidence shows tariffs raise prices and reduce available quantities of goods and services for US businesses and consumers, which results in lower income, reduced employment, and lower economic output.

Tariffs could reduce US output through a few channels. One possibility is a tariff may be passed on to producers and consumers in the form of higher prices. Tariffs can raise the cost of parts and materials, which would raise the price of goods using those inputs and reduce private sector output. This would result in lower incomes for both owners of capital and workers. Similarly, higher consumer prices due to tariffs would reduce the after-tax value of both labor and capital income. Because higher prices would reduce the return to labor and capital, they would incentivize Americans to work and invest less, leading to lower output.

Alternatively, the US dollar may appreciate in response to tariffs, offsetting the potential price increase for US consumers. The more valuable dollar, however, would make it more difficult for exporters to sell their goods on the global market, resulting in lower revenues for exporters. This would also result in lower US output and incomes for both workers and owners of capital, reducing incentives for work and investment and leading to a smaller economy.

Many economists have evaluated the consequences of the trade war tariffs on the American economy, with results suggesting the tariffs have raised prices and lowered economic output and employment since the start of the trade war in 2018.

  • A February 2018 analysis by economists Kadee Russ and Lydia Cox found that steel‐​consuming jobs outnumber steel‐​producing jobs 80 to 1, indicating greater job losses from steel tariffs than job gains.
  • A March 2018 Chicago Boothsurvey of 43 economic experts revealed that 0 percent thought a US tariff on steel and aluminum would improve Americans’ welfare.
  • An August 2018 analysis from economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York warned the Trump administration’s intent to use tariffs to narrow the trade deficit would reduce imports andUS exports, resulting in little to no change in the trade deficit.
  • A March 2019 National Bureau of Economic Research study conducted by Pablo D. Fajgelbaum and others found that the trade war tariffs did not lower the before-duties import prices of Chinese goods, resulting in US importers taking on the entire burden of import duties in the form of higher after-duty prices.
  • An April 2019 University of Chicago study conducted by Aaron Flaaen, Ali Hortacsu, and Felix Tintelnot found that after the Trump administration imposed tariffs on washing machines, washer prices increased by $86 per unit and dryer prices increased by $92 per unit, due to package deals, ultimately resulting in an aggregate increase in consumer costs of over $1.5 billion.
  • An April 2019 research publication from the International Monetary Fund used a range of general equilibrium models to estimate the effects of a 25 percent increase in tariffs on all trade between China and the US, and each model estimated that the higher tariffs would bring both countries significant economic losses.
  • An October 2019 study by Alberto Cavallo and coauthors found tariffs on importsfrom China were almost fully passed through to US import prices but only partially to retail consumers, implying some businesses absorbed the higher tariffs, reducing retail margins, instead of passing them on to retail consumers.
  • In December 2019, Federal Reserve economists Aaron Flaaen and Justin Pierce found a net decrease in manufacturing employment due to the tariffs, suggesting that the benefit of increased production in protected industries was outweighed by the consequences of rising input costs and retaliatory tariffs.
  • A February 2020 paper from economists Kyle Handley, Fariha Kamal, and Ryan Monarch estimated the 2018–2019 import tariffswere equivalent to a 2 percent tariff on all US exports.
  • A December 2021 review of the data and methods used to estimate the trade war effects through 2021, by Pablo Fajgelbaum and Amit Khandelwal, concluded that “US consumers of imported goods have borne the brunt of the tariffs through higher prices, and that the trade war has lowered aggregate real income in both the US and China, although not by large magnitudes relative to GDP.”
  • A January 2022 study from the US Department of Agriculture estimated the direct export losses from the retaliatory tariffs totaled $27 billion from 2018 through the end of 2019.
  • A May 2023 United States International Trade Commission report from Peter Herman and others found evidence for near complete pass-through of the steel, aluminum, and Chinese tariffs to US prices. It also found an estimated $2.8 billion production increase in industries protected by the steel and aluminum tariffs was met with a $3.4 billion production decrease in downstream industries affected by higher input prices.
  • A January 2024 International Monetary Fund paper found that unexpected tariff shocks tend to reduce imports more than exports, leading to slight decreases in the trade deficit at the expense of persistent gross domestic product losses—for example, the study estimates reversing the 2018–2019 tariffs would increase US output by 4 percent over three years.
  • A January 2024 study by David Autor and others concludes that the 2018–2019 tariffs failed to provide economic help to the heartland: import tariffs had “neither a sizable nor significant effect on US employment in regions with newly‐​protected sectors” and foreign retaliation “by contrast had clear negative employment impacts, particularly in agriculture.”

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Timeline of Activity

  1. The update adds import data through 2023, new data on tariff collections, and updated model results for imposed, retaliatory, and proposed tariffs. The modeling updates reflect President Biden’s tariff increases and former President Trump’s tariff proposals. Nicolo Pastrone assisted with the research for this update.
  2. The update adds a new column to the “Imports Affected by U.S. Tariffs” table, reflecting import data for calendar year 2022, data updates for prior years, and tariff-rate quotas that took effect in 2022 for certain steel and aluminum imports.
  3. Tariffs on washing machines expired in February 2023 after an initial three-year period and a two-year extension. The Biden administration provided a two-year suspension of solar panel tariffs for four Southeast Asian nations beginning in 2022. The update adjusts the revenue and economic results for imposed tariffs.
  4. The Biden administration has reached deals to replace steel and aluminum tariffs with tariff rate quotas for the European Union and United Kingdom and steel tariffs with tariff-rate quotas for Japan. The deals also eliminate tariffs on derivative goods from the same jurisdictions and will bring an end to related retaliatory tariffs. The update adjusts revenue and economic estimates for imposed and retaliatory tariffs and adds a new table illustrating how import levels of affected goods have changed since 2017.
  5. Under President Biden, the U.S. will suspend tariffs on aircrafts and other goods from the E.U. under a five-year pause in the ongoing Boeing-Airbus dispute. We have reorganized the layout of the tracker.
  6. U.S. to eliminate tariffs on $2.5 billion worth of Canadian aluminum that had been imposed on August 16, 2020, to avoid Canadian retaliatory tariffs.
  7. U.S. to reimpose tariffs on $2.5 billion worth of Canadian aluminum on August 16, 2020, and Canada to impose retaliatory tariffs.
  8. U.S. reduces tariffs on $120 billion of Chinese goods by half to 7.5% and China reduces tariffs on approximately $75 billion of US goods in half to 2.5% and 5%.
  9. U.S. postpones indefinitely the scheduled tariff of 15% on $160 billion worth of goods from China and announces plans to decrease the 15% tariff on $120 billion worth of goods from China to 7.5% (date unknown, will be included in the model when the decrease takes effect). China took corresponding measures and canceled their schedule tariff increase.
  10. U.S. concludes Section 301 investigation into France’s Digital Services Tax, threatens tariffs on $2.4 billion French products.

    Our analysis now includes tariffs on solar panels and washing machines.

  11. U.S. imposes 10% and 25% tariffs on $7.5 billion European Union goods under WTO ruling.
  12. U.S. postpones scheduled tariff hike from 25% to 30% on $250 billion worth of goods from China.
  13. U.S. announces 10% and 25% tariffs on $7.5 billion European Union goods under WTO ruling, with the authority to raise the tariffs to 100%.
  14. U.S. delays tariff increase from 25% to 30% on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods from Oct. 1 until Oct. 15.
  15. U.S. announces the 25% tariff on $250 billion of Chinese goods would increase to 30 percent, effective Oct. 1, after a comment period.
  16. China announces additional tariffs on $75 billion of U.S. imports, from 5-10%, and will resume tariffs on U.S. cars and car parts suspended earlier in 2019. Tariffs to begin Sept. 1 and end Dec. 15.

    U.S. announces 10% tariff on $300 billion of Chinese goods to increase to 15%, some beginning Sept. 1, others on Dec. 15.

  17. U.S. announces 10% tariff on $300 billion of Chinese goods would be delayed from Sept. 1 until Dec. 15.
  18. U.S. announces 10% tariff on $300 billion Chinese goods, to be levied on Sept. 1, lowered from the previously announced 25% on $325 billion.
  19. U.S. confirms announced July 5 plans to impose tariffs on all Chinese imports, roughly $500 billion of goods, modeled as a 10% tariff.
  20. U.S. again threatens additional tariffs on Chinese imports if China further retaliates, increasing threats from levies on $200 billion and another $200 billion to $200 billion and $300 billion.
  21. U.S. “indefinitely suspended” previously announced tariffs against Mexican products, set to begin at a 5% rate in June and gradually rise to 25%.
  22. U.S. threatens 5% tariff beginning June 10 on $346.5 billion of imports from Mexico until illegal immigration across the southern border stops. It would rise to 10% on July 1; 15% on Aug. 1; 20% on Sept. 1; and 25% on Oct. 1.
  23. U.S. announces it will lift steel and aluminum tariffs on Canada and Mexico, and those nations will lift their retaliatory tariffs.
  24. U.S. announces it will raise tariffs on $200 billion of imports from China from 10% to 25%, with threats to impose an additional 25% on $325 billion of goods.
  25. Tax Foundation separated our automobile tariff estimate to show auto imports from Canada, and made slight estimate adjustments to correct for rounding.
  26. U.S. doubles the tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Turkey, which responds by doubling its tariffs on 22 U.S. products.
  27. U.S. threatens a 10% tariff on $200 billion of Chinese goods if China retaliates for the previous 10% tariff, and that would extend to an additional $200 billion of goods. This would amount to a $40 billion tax increase.
  28. U.S. considers increasing the proposed 10% tariff to 25% on $200 billion of Chinese imports. That would be a $30 billion tax increase.
  29. U.S. reaffirms plans to impose tariffs on all Chinese imports (roughly $500 billion).
  30. Russia will begin placing tariffs on U.S. goods, worth about $87.6 million. (Slight adjustments were made to our estimates to correct for rounding.)
  31. U.S. announces readiness to target an additional $200 billion in Chinese imports, and an additional $300 billion after that—an increase of $100 billion from previous threats.
  32. Turkey will begin placing tariffs on U.S. goods, worth about $266.5 million.

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