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Tariff madness

The threat of a trade war is bad for world equities, and not just because it hurts China's economy
Tariff madness

I’m losing thousands of pounds a year to shops. I’m therefore going to pay more than I need for stuff, to encourage myself to make and grow my own goods. I'm looking forward to my kale-based diet.

You might think I’ve lost what little sense I ever had. But I’m using exactly the same thinking (I use the word loosely) that President Trump used when raising tariffs on Chinese goods. He tweeted recently: “The United States has been losing, for many years, 600 to 800 Billion Dollars a year on Trade. With China we lose 500 Billion Dollars. Sorry, we’re not going to be doing that anymore!”

This, of course, is bonkers. The US’s trade with China is just like mine with Ocado. It is not a loss but an exchange. What Mr Trump misses is the point that Adam Smith recognised in the very first paragraph of the Wealth of Nations, written in 1776 – that the division of labour makes us all better off. Just as it makes no sense for me to grow all my own food, so there are some things the US should buy from overseas.

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