Tariffs, taxes, and trade: Doug Irwin on ChinaEconTalk


Douglas Irwin is the John French Professor of Economics at Dartmouth College and the author of Clashing Over Commerce: A History of US Trade Policy. On this episode, Irwin provides an overview to the history of U.S. trade policy from the 18th century to the modern day,  highlighting significant legislation as well as the formation of important intergovernmental organizations that have sprung up along the way.

What to listen for on this week’s ChinaEconTalk:

19:53: On the flawed logic behind the Tariff Act of 1930, and the parallels with similarly problematic thinking in the modern day: “There’s absolutely a parallel there because some Democrats in Congress said, ‘You know, we ought to really think about this carefully, and not just our domestic interest but also our export interests, and other countries might retaliate.’ And basically, the reaction of most members of Congress was, Republicans at the time, ‘No, we don’t have to worry about that. This is a domestic piece of legislation, it doesn’t really concern other countries. They’re not going to retaliate.’ And, of course, they did.”

39:40: Doug discusses the tips and tricks behind one example of “tariff engineering”: “The tariffs applied to motorcycles with piston displacements of 700cc and above. What Honda started doing is producing a 699cc version. Now the difference [between the two] is imperceptible, but just by changing that one cubic centimeter, it changed the whole tariff treatment and you avoided a 45 percent tariff and were assessed at a much, much lower rate.”

Jordan will be hosting his first-ever live recording of ChinaEconTalk at the Carnegie Endowment in Washington, D.C., at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, September 19. Be sure to drop by Mission Dupont afterward for dinner or drinks!

This podcast was edited and produced by Jason MacRonald.