Opinion | Tariffs and protectionism hurt Iowans

Biden keeping the Trump tariffs continues to hurt regular Iowans and farmers.



U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the COVID-19 response and the vaccination program during an event at the State Dining Room of the White House on May 4, 2021, in Washington, DC. President Biden set a new goal to have 70% of adult Americans with at least one shot and at least 160 Americans fully vaccinated by July 4th, 2021.

Shahab Khan, Opinions Columnist

President Joe Biden’s continuation of the Trump administration’s China trade policy is going to have disastrous effects for Iowans.

During his four-year term, one of former president Donald Trump’s signature policy goals was to reduce the trade deficit with China and punish the country for implementing unfair trade practices. However, in typical Trump fashion, the man with the plan dragged the U.S. and China into a trade war as the two nations began slapping tariffs — an import tax — on each other’s products.

While the U.S. is still a relatively closed economy, globalization has coupled the U.S. to the rest of the world, particularly China. This is especially clear in Iowa as the Chinese are one the state’s biggest customers regarding corn, soybeans, and pork.

So far, the biggest losers of the nascent rivalry between the U.S. and China have not been elite policymakers. They have been Iowa farmers.

Before Trump’s election in 2016, the Iowa-China trade relationship generated $2.1 billion worth of exports and 23,600 jobs. By the start of 2020, hundreds of Iowans lost their jobs as exports to China declined substantially.

Countries such as Brazil, have stepped into the void and have started exporting the aforementioned goods to China, closing off Iowa farmers to the largest market in the world. To add insult to injury, Trump’s tariffs on Chinese goods and services have cost Iowa taxpayers  $730 million.

By all objective means, Trump’s haphazard trade war has left the U.S. in a weakened position. Our trade deficit with China has increased from $544 billion to $691 billion. Furthermore, China has not stopped engaging in trade malpractice as the country continues to steal technology from foreign firms doing business in the Middle Kingdom.

Which is why it was initially puzzling that Biden is continuing the Trump policy. Until, that is, he revealed his China centric foreign policy.

Biden views China as a rising strategic competitor to the U.S. This is dangerous as China is seeking to undermine and eventually replace the Liberal International Order, the set of formal and informal rules that have guided the globe since the end of World War II.  Unfortunately, Biden’s policy looks to be more of the same as Trump; lots of aggressive posturing and not much substantive action. Case in point, Biden keeping Trump’s tariffs in place.

That being said, there is still time for Biden to develop a comprehensive strategy that allows China to peacefully rise while also reminding them of the rules-based order. A great first step would be for the U.S. to ratify the Trans Pacific Partnership, an Obama-era free trade agreement, that would reduce signatories’ dependence on Chinese supply chains and bring them closer to the U.S.

This way, not only will the U.S. be able to form a coalition of pro-American states, but also allow farmers to make up lost trade revenue by replacing China with new markets.

The Trump strategy of speaking loudly and carrying a small stick has only led to job and monetary losses for Iowans.  The Biden Administration must recalibrate and lift the tariffs while also opening up the U.S. to other markets. In short, free trade policies benefit American policymakers by increasing the U.S’s sphere of influence and Iowans as it opens up new markets to export American goods.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.