Since President Joe Biden took office at the start of the year, his administration has squarely focused its work on the U.S. recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The administration’s first major legislative push yielded a strong recovery bill, and increasing vaccination rates have dominated headlines as shots become more widely available to Americans across the nation.
While it’s understandable that Biden’s efforts would zero in so closely on the greatest crisis many of us can remember, one key piece to bolstering the economic recovery is missing: resolving the trade wars. Americans have been left largely to wait and see how the new administration will approach trade policy. And, unfortunately, that relative lack of movement has been holding back our economy and making it harder for people to recover from the economic damage of this epidemic.
Biden and United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai have, unfortunately, left one of former President Donald Trump’s signature policies in place: tariffs on goods imported from China. As long as these tariffs remain in place, there will be an anchor weighing down the recovery and preventing it from truly taking off.
The Biden administration says it’s reviewing these tariffs as part of a broader deep-dive into trade with China and how well the country is living up to its commitments outlined in the Phase One Trade Deal. But, unless the tariffs are removed immediately, American businesses, workers, manufacturers, farmers and consumers will continue to struggle. Americans cannot wait any longer for a full review to conclude. They are feeling the effects of the tariffs right now, and need help as soon as they can get it.
Despite claims from Trump and other members of his administration, tariffs do not amount to being “tough on China.” Instead, they are tough on the U.S.-based importers who are stuck with a higher bill for the goods they need to operate their businesses since they pay the cost of the tariffs. In fact, recent estimates from Moody’s show that importers have absorbed north of 90% of the total costs of the tariffs the Trump administration put on imports from China.
As a result, importers are faced with the difficult task of either absorbing these costs themselves — potentially at the risk of keeping staff members employed — or passing them on to consumers who are still feeling the effects of the pandemic.
At the start of the year, the trade war had already cost our country nearly 245,000 jobs, with more job losses on the way if the tariffs stay in place. The disastrous effects of these tariffs can be seen in every sector of the economy, as well. The prices of critical materials like steel and lumber are on the rise, and key consumer goods are getting more expensive for the families that need them.
And even still, a new threat could be just around the corner. There is a chance the Biden administration will enact new tariffs, this time on imports from Vietnam, thanks to an investigation started during the last administration. At a time when businesses are still reeling from the tariffs already in place, adding new ones would be devastating. This would also hurt one of our strongest allies in the Asia-Pacific, who can help with the broader China issues.
The path forward is clear: Biden and Tai cannot allow the Trump administration’s unacceptable and misguided trade policies to continue. They need to bring the trade war to a quick conclusion and finally relieve American businesses, workers and families of the heavy costs that they’ve been dealing with since the levies were first handed down back in 2018.
If they do not, then the recovery will only be more difficult for Americans as prices rise and businesses contend with how to handle the ongoing costs. If they do, our economy will be poised to recover faster and stronger from the damage of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Paul Bauer is a commissioner for the Town of Dewey Beach.
This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: The time has come for Biden to repeal Trump’s tariffs | Opinion