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Where I live I often hear local media arguing that some legislative changes are performed without impact assessment (this includes both political and economical actors).

From a layman's perspective, having an impact assessment before each major taxation or fiscal change makes perfect sense since the government might have a basic idea upon the consequences an important change might produce.

Donald Trump has imposed various tariffs in 2018 (Trump tariffs):

The Trump tariffs are a series of tariffs imposed during the presidency of Donald Trump. In January 2018, Trump imposed tariffs on solar panels and washing machines, and later the same year, he imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum.

I am wondering if any impact assessment was performed before any of these decisions (proactive approach). Or this changes are typically done and make adjustments afterwards (reactive approach).

Or maybe (traditionally) there is simply no expectation for such assessment before this type of decision.

Question: Were there any impact estimations performed before making tariffs changes?

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    Are you only looking for impact assessments requested directly by the government, or will assessments made for large non-government organizations count? A quick search turned up this assessment meant for a group that does some lobbying, but nothing strictly by the government so far. – Giter Jun 15 '18 at 15:14
  • @Giter - I am mostly thinking about the government making such assessments, but any assessment with public results available prior to the decision being made is fine. – Alexei Jun 15 '18 at 15:33
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    Seriously? This is Trump you're talking about. – jamesqf Jun 15 '18 at 18:26
  • I'm not sure about the tariffs, but generally the economic impact of legislative changes, such as tax cuts or spending bills, are analyzed by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). It is non-partisan, but has been attacked by both sides when politically convenient for a given side. – Gramatik Jun 15 '18 at 21:12
  • @Gramatik: But AFAIK these tariffs are not legislation (that has to be approved by Congress). Rather, pre-existing legislation (the Trade Act of 1974, International Emergency Economic Powers Act of 1877, &c), gives the President the authority to impose tariffs and take other economic actions. So a President can wake up in the morning and say "Hey, let's start a trade war!", and Congress would have to enact legislation (with enough of a majority to make it veto-proof) to stop him. – jamesqf Jun 16 '18 at 18:30
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I could not find any official economic impact assessment, and there are no released official assessments according to a non-government assessment I found.

However, national security investigations were performed prior to the steel and aluminum tariffs, and an investigation into Chinese trade practices was performed prior to the China-related tariffs. These investigations are used as justification for the tariffs, though they are not focused on the impacts of tariffs.


This report is an impact assessment prepared by the consulting firm Trade Partnership Worldwide, LLC, for the Consumer Technology Association and National Retail Federation. The report covers the impact on the US economy of several China-related tariff scenarios, such as China matching US tariffs or US tariffs being raised from $50 to $100 billion. This report includes the following line, indicating that comprehensive government reports, if made, have not been released:

Administration officials have not released any research that quantifies impacts of the proposed
U.S. tariffs, coupled with proposed Chinese retaliation on the U.S. economy and U.S. jobs in any detail: e.g., the overall impact on GDP, exports (bilateral and in total), imports and jobs.

CTA and NRF represent about $17 million in lobbying efforts, and it can be assumed that other large trade groups ordered similar assessments. Because of this, even if the administration did not perform their own economic assessments lawmakers are being influence indirectly by lobbyist's assessments.

As for government assessments, the US Department of Commerce performed investigations into potential security issues with importing steel and aluminum. However, these investigations were focused on security issues of current import amounts, rather than economic impacts of tariffs on those imports.

As for China related tariffs, this executive investigation into Chinese trade practices, particularly those relating to technology and intellectual property, is the justification for tariffs on Chinese products. Much like the steel/aluminum investigation, this investigation is simply focused on the current trade relationship with China, rather than the economic impacts of tariffs aimed at changing that relationship.

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