Given that Trump is implementing tariffs on metal from foreign countries, tariffs are in the news. I understand that they have been extremely low in the United States throughout its Cold War economic dominance. The Reciprocal Tariff act only provided for reciprocally lowering tariffs. Some countries such as Japan are known to be extremely harsh against foreign inputs. The European Union, which is currently threatening, does have tariffs against non EU members. How do current and proposed tariffs on imports into the US compare to what is currently levied against US goods?
When I first looked at this question I thought (as you probably did when you asked it) that the answer would be relatively simple. As it turns out, it's not even close to being simple. For example, if you were the owner of a restaurant who wanted to import meat from another country to the US, here is a partial list of things that may determine what tariff you will pay:
- What animal the meat comes from
- What type of cut the meat it
- Whether it is bone-in or boneless
- Whether the meat has been processed
- What the quality of the meat is
- Whether the meat is fresh, chilled or frozen
This is before we've even asked where the meat is coming from, so it would suffice to say that a complete answer to the question would be... complicated. For the curious, you can view a complete list of current tariffs on imports to the US on the United States International Trade Commission website. The most current edition of the Yearly Tariff Data is a spreadsheet with over 12,000 entries.
I highly recommend downloading and browsing through it, because some of the distinctions are fascinating. For example, there is no tariff on the import of a live Mule only if it is intended for immediate slaughter. Also, if you're like me, you'll get a few cheap laughs out of it too...
Of course, this data only reflects tariffs on US imports. As far as I can tell (and someone please correct me if I'm wrong) there is not a US government website with a listing of tariffs on US exports. Luckily, I found an excellent website that let's you compare the import/export tariffs of any country and even produces a nice-looking map for you. Here is where you can find this Market Access Map, which is provided by the International Trade Centre.
Just to give an example of what tariffs on US exports look like, I've included below a map I generated for a specific type of car. It seemed like a relevant example since, as a category of goods, cars are among the largest US exports.
For comparison, here's what the map looks like for the same category of vehicles when being imported to the US (US tariffs on foreign cars).
Clearly in this example, the US gets hit with WAY more tariffs by other countries than it puts on imports from them, at least in terms of percent (and probably in dollar amount given that cars are among the largest exports in the US). Of course, this doesn't say anything about tariffs paid on the parts that are used to make those cars, nor the raw materials used to manufacture those parts if either were imported or exported at various points in the manufacturing process, which is fairly common these days. Essentially, I'm saying that this is far from a complete picture... pun intended.