The Return to Protectionism
NBER Working Paper No. 25638
We analyze the impacts of the 2018 trade war on the U.S. economy. We estimate import demand and export supply elasticities using changes in U.S. and retaliatory tariffs over time. Imports from targeted countries declined 31.5% within products, while targeted U.S. exports fell 11.0%. We find complete pass-through of U.S. tariffs to variety-level import prices. Using a general equilibrium framework that matches these elasticities, we compute the aggregate and regional impacts. Annual consumer and producer losses from higher costs of imports were $68.8 billion (0.37% of GDP). After accounting for higher tariff revenue and gains to domestic producers from higher prices, the aggregate welfare loss was $7.8 billion (0.04% of GDP). U.S. tariffs favored sectors located in politically competitive counties, but retaliatory tariffs offset the benefits to these counties. We find that tradeable-sector workers in heavily Republican counties were the most negatively affected by the trade war.
Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w25638