President Trump’s Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross has emphasized how little new tariffs on steel and aluminum will affect the cost of a can of beer.
This is not the point.
The point is possible retaliation against our exports. That retaliation could be especially bad for us here in Kansas.
Half of Kansas wheat, worth $834 million in 2017, goes abroad. Kansas beef exports in 2017 were valued at $809 million.
Exports of aircraft and aircraft parts made in Kansas in 2017 were valued at $2.5 billion.
Retaliation against these Kansas products might not be visible.
Overseas buyers might simply look elsewhere.
Asian countries could buy wheat, and beef, from Australia.
Countries around the world could turn away from Boeing to Airbus for passenger planes. Instead of Cessna and Learjet aircraft made in Wichita those countries could buy regional jets from Canada or Embraer airplanes from Brazil.
These subtle changes would cost jobs and farm income in our state.
An international trade war, if one is triggered by Trump’s tariffs, is not match play between two parties.
It is conflict in goods and services among all the players in the world. Each nation would be trying to protect its advantages in the kinds of things it produced best.
In Denmark it might be cheese; in Germany and Japan it would likely be automobiles; in the United States it would be, among other things, films and engineering services.
Once a trade war is started, there is no stopping it until inflation goes off the charts and recession follows. This is what happened in the 1930s.
We in Kansas can’t afford to see it happen again.