President Donald Trump is right to say that his tariffs are generating billions of dollars for the U.S. But China and other countries aren’t paying them as he’s suggested.
According to data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, more than $13 billion in duties imposed by the Trump administration were assessed on imported goods as of Dec. 18.
Actual collections could lag and be lower because of refunds and other factors, but Treasury Department reports show receipts from all customs duties have risen sharply since the tariffs took effect.
While Trump has suggested on Twitter and in public comments that tariffs are somehow being charged to or paid by China and other countries, trade economists say that’s generally misleading.
U.S. importers of record are responsible for the duties, and ultimately U.S. businesses and consumers could pay through higher costs, they say.
Trump is “suggesting this is bringing in lots of new revenue and all of the burden is falling on the Chinese,” said Phil Levy, senior fellow on the global economy at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and a former senior economist for trade for President George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers. “I think that’s mostly false.”
Johns Hopkins University applied economics professor Steve Hanke, a member of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Ronald Reagan, put it more bluntly.
“Tariffs on Chinese imports are paid by Americans, not by the Chinese or their government. The President’s tariffs are simply a #tax on American consumers,” Hanke said on Twitter Jan. 6.