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Trump’s trade war would damage us all

There are many reasons to hope that Joe Biden exploits a strong economy and anger over the end of abortion rights to beat Donald Trump on November 5 for a second time in the US presidential election.

The most important is the preservation of American democracy, which, despite all its flaws, remains an inspiration to other countries. The election of a man who did everything he could to subvert that democracy, between his crushing defeat on November 3, 2020, and his followers’ violent assault on the Capitol on January 6, 2021, would represent a huge defeat for justice as well as the US Constitution.

There is also, however, another reason, which is not getting the attention it deserves. It is that Trump is dedicated to doing severe damage to the world’s trading system if he wins a second term. In many aspects of foreign policy, the danger with Trump is that he is unpredictable in his thinking and transactional in his behavior. With trade, the danger is that he is entirely predictable.

Trump says that as president he would impose a 10% tariff on all goods imported into the United States. Currently, the average tariff on US imports is about 2%, with half of all industrial goods entering entirely tariff-free. It is true that he also made this pledge during the 2016 election campaign and then did not implement it when in office. However in a second term he would feel stronger and would have less need to listen to business lobbyists.

Such a tariff would raise prices for American consumers. That would likely serve to depress US economic growth at just the time when it would be slowing anyway as the big fiscal stimulus provided by the Biden administration would be coming to an end. But the big question concerns how America’s