Vice season 6, episode 17 recap: “Trump’s Trade War”


On the latest episode of Vice, the show looked at the current state of U.S. trade and the effects that trade wars have on communities.

The concept of trade deals has become a focal point of public debate in recent years, in part because the U.S. government has begun slapping massive tariffs on foreign products in an effort to revive heavy industries in America like steel. One aluminum plant was forced to close in 2016, but because of the tariffs it was able to open back up and all the workers were rehired. Vice spends this episode breaking down how trade wars impact different countries.

But like in all wars, trade wars come with losses and collateral damage. However, the idea of trade takes this concept further, as the entire principle of trade is based on the concept that you give up something in order to gain something that you could not achieve on your own for a greater overall benefit. Hence the term “trade” for the principle of giving something in exchange for getting something else that is an improvement on what you previously had.

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One nail plant in Missouri was growing considerably until they lost a massive amount of business as soon as the tariffs began, as that meant their product became far more expensive for their customers.

Another example that was discussed was the iPhone, which when broken down, is composed of parts made in countries across the globe. Volkswagen was another example, as there is a massive Volkswagen plant in Tennessee. The plant itself was the product of foreign direct investment and while the parts are imported from other countries, the car itself is manufactured in Tennessee. Tariffs would cause the parts the car is made of to go up in price, which means the price of the car itself also goes up.

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The tariffs put on aluminum and other products were directed at China, who as expected, responded with tariffs of their own. The Chinese put tariffs on American exported soybeans, which have an immediate effect on farmers in Iowa and elsewhere. But this is just a warm-up, as tariffs have been floated against other nations that are also U.S. allies.

Many economists of various political persuasions have publicly warned against the concept of tariffs and trade wars, arguing the historical evidence is against it and that it results in higher costs and many more losers than winners. Which isn’t surprising, because the vast majority of economists agree on the benefits of trade. So, if a trade war means it causes far more losers than winners than that is gonna be a huge problem.