One Tariff Down, Many More to Go
President Bush's recent decision to eliminate the steel tariffs
couldn't have been easy to make, but it was the correct decision.
With the European Union threatening to retaliate and the domestic
industries that use steel shedding jobs, something had to be
Now, if Congress could just eliminate the other tariffs that are
creating such a drag on our economy.
Tariffs are really hidden taxes, and the sooner Congress introduces
legislation to eliminate them -- and thwart efforts to impose new
ones -- the better. There are virtually endless tariffs on things
you'd expect, and on things you couldn't even imagine. All they do
is raise prices and the cost of living for the average
Whether it's Christmas shopping or just the bare necessities,
everyday life would be much cheaper without tariffs. Take orange
juice, for example. The United States has a 7 percent tariff on
imported juice. The U.S. Trade Representative could eliminate it as
a part of the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas , yet the citrus
industry and Florida's governor, Republican Jeb Bush, are fighting
hard to see that this doesn't happen.
This isn't the only popular tariff in Florida that needs to be
eliminated. Take sugar in your coffee? America has a tariff rate
quota on imported sugar. As a result, Americans pay two to three
times the price the rest of the world pays for sugar, and many
products contain the artificially cheap sweetener high fructose
corn syrup instead of the real thing.
Unfortunately, protectionism doesn't end with sugar and orange
juice. In 2002, the United States implemented a 64 percent tariff
on Vietnamese catfish. U.S. producers pressed for it because they
resent the competition. They also insisted their Vietnamese
counterparts label the fish by its local name, "basa."
Would you like to eat beef instead? American cattlemen have
grumbled about trade negotiations with Australia, claiming that our
market will be flooded with imports. But Australia doesn't have the
capacity to flood our market. The majority of beef imports from
Australia become fast-food hamburgers. A trade deal with Australia
could make a Whopper or Big Mac even more affordable.
With so many tariffs, you probably won't be surprised to learn they
extend even to feeding man's best friend. Yes, Rover could be
affected by protectionist government policies. Several members of
Congress are seeking to implement a tariff on milk protein
concentrates (MPCs), a product produced abroad and used in products
ranging from frozen pizza to dog food. Such a tariff could make a
long list of products more expensive and could invite a WTO dispute
with Australia and New Zealand.
There are trade disputes all around the house. America has a tariff
on Canadian lumber, despite the fact that Canada is our partner in
the North American Free Trade Agreement. Home ownership is one of
the best investments one can make, which is why our government
encourages it through tax breaks. So why are we then turning around
and raising housing costs by imposing a tariff on Canadian
Forget about food in your stomach and a roof over your head --
let's concentrate on putting some clothes on your back. Just trying
to get dressed elicits more bad news. According to the left-leaning
Progressive Policy Institute, while the steel tariffs evoked much
emotion, "8 percent to 30 percent tariffs on college sweatshirts,
baby jumpers, forks, drinking glasses and underwear elicit mainly
blank stares." Because tariffs are invisible taxes, the average
American is unaware that all these items cost more than they
Thanks to U.S. trade policies, the average American has to spend
more just to survive. While the president imposed the steel
tariffs, many of these tariffs are the result of congressional
action. And more could be on the way. For example, Sen. Charles
Grassley, R-Iowa, has introduced legislation to level tariffs on a
range of Mexican products. He says the list could include many
products that can be found in your kitchen: tomatoes, bell peppers,
limes, honey and pecans.
Grassley wants this law because Mexico currently imposes a 20
percent tax on high fructose corn syrup. Officials there are wrong
to do so. But starting a trade war with one of our largest trading
partners is no way to resolve this. Instead, we ought to work
together to eliminate taxes and tariffs on both sides.
Members of Congress ought to understand that a tariff on imported
goods translates into higher costs for the American consumer. A
politician would never run for office by promising to increase the
price of avocados or meat. But by implementing a tariff, they've
done just that.
And we all pay the price when they do.
is a trade analyst in the Center for International Trade and
Economics at the Heritage Foundation.
First appeared on Foxnews.com