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Trade war

Trump tariffs 'almost entirely' shouldered by Americans, IMF says

New York Fed estimates $831 annual cost to typical US household

American importers and consumers are bearing the cost of U.S. tariff hikes, research shows, President Donald Trump's assertions notwithstanding.   © AP

NEW YORK -- American businesses and consumers are absorbing the bulk of the U.S. tariffs' cost as the trade war with China drags on, expert research finds, even as President Donald Trump continues to insist otherwise.

The cost of Washington's tariffs on Chinese imports "has been borne almost entirely" by American importers, the International Monetary Fund said in a report Thursday.

Tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods rose to 25% from 10% starting May 10. The new round covers products ranging from consumer electronics to food to clothing. Trump has also threatened higher tariffs on the remaining $300 billion in Chinese imports.

Using Bureau of Labor Statistics price data on imports from China, IMF researchers found "almost no change in the (ex-tariff) border prices of imports from China, and a sharp jump in the post-tariff import prices matching the magnitude of the tariff." This suggests that American companies have been paying the same price, plus the duties.

Some of these tariffs have been passed on to U.S. consumers, like those on washing machines, "while others have been absorbed by importing firms through lower profit margins," the IMF report said. "A further increase in tariffs will likely be similarly passed through to consumers."

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York estimated Thursday an $831 cost to the typical household annually when taking into the recent 25% tariff hike into account -- double the household cost posed by 2018 tariffs.

"U.S. purchasers of imports from China must now pay the import tax in addition to the base price," it said, concurring with the IMF findings.

Best Buy, America's largest specialty retailer of electronics, reported better-than-expected earnings Thursday but kept its full-year outlook at the same level on the impact of the recent tariff hike on $200 billion in Chinese goods. Shares of the company closed nearly 5% lower.

In its earnings call, Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly warned of higher prices if the proposed 25% tariff rate on the remainder of Chinese imports is implemented.

"The impact of tariffs at 25% will result in price increases and will be felt by U.S. consumers," Joly said.

The same woes are also felt by other major American retailers -- including Walmart, which has warned of price hikes despite being known for its low-price strategy.

Trump, meanwhile, still holds that the Chinese side bears most of the burden.

"These tariffs are paid for largely by China," he said Thursday, when he announced a $16 billion aid package for American farmers to soften the blow from the tit-for-tat trade war.

"We never saw 10 cents from China," Trump said. "China didn't give us anything. Now they're giving us billions."

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