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Tariffs can be powerful political weapons, and Donald Trump is about to give himself plenty of ammunition.
The administration has listed about $50 billion in Chinese goods it plans to tax, and it announced plans to impose tariffs on an additional $100 billion in the near future. Assuming the tariffs go forward, we can use research and trade data to consider where they could be deployed for maximum political gain.
Where trade policy meets politics
Trump is already raising money and holding rallies for the 2020 election, and he seems willing to use trade policy to bolster his reelection chances and salvage Republican control of the Senate in the 2018 midterms. After all, he reportedly timed the announcement of steel tariffs to influence a special House election in Pennsylvania.
It is to be expected, especially in a contested state such as Pennsylvania. Researchers have found that in past trade negotiations, presidents typically made an extra effort to protect swing states from foreign competition.
Trade economists Xiangjun Ma of the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing and John McLaren of the University of Virginia even put a number on it, estimating that past presidents valued the welfare of swing-state voters about 1.3 times as much as those in solidly partisan regions.
To estimate the effect of such tactics and understand how China might retaliate with its own trade measures aimed at exerting maximum leverage over U.S. politicians, we compared trade numbers with the industries where employment is most concentrated in swing states.
We started with the eight states that have switched sides at least once since 2008. To account for the midterms, we added seven additional …read more