The current schedule of U.S. import tariffs is overly complex and encourages the exporting of American jobs. Because the various import tax rates are based upon product, rather than country of origin, our tariff schedule protects certain products and industries against fair foreign competition, while not protecting American workers against unfair foreign competition. Basing our tariff rates upon the country of origin – and allowing all products from a given country to be imported at the same rate – would eliminate these dual negative aspects of our international trade stance.
It cannot be denied that free trade works, and is mutually beneficial, if carried on between countries that have similar wage rates and regulatory structures (worker rights, environmental protections, intellectual property protections, etc.). It also cannot be denied that free trade, or even trade with minimal tariffs, between countries that have vastly different living standards and regulatory structures gives a vast advantage to the country that has the lower wage structure and less developed regulatory regime.
In order to permit the benefits of free trade between countries similar to the U.S., while protecting American workers from unfair competition with countries that have low wages and liberal regulatory regimes, the United States should establish the following tariff schedule:
1. Goods imported from countries that have a standard of living roughly identical to the United States, or higher, should pay a minimal tariff of 1%. This rate could apply to any country whose average wage is 75% or greater of the average American wage and whose laws don’t differ materially from our own. Examples of countries in this category would be Canada, Norway, Australia, Switzerland, and Ireland (to name a few).
2. Goods coming from countries with an average wage between 50% and 75% of the U.S. average would be charged a tariff in the 4% range. This category would include countries like Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Spain, Israel, and South Korea (again, a partial list).
3. Goods imported from countries with wage rates that tend to be 25 to 50 percent of the American average would face import duties of 8%. This rate would apply to goods from countries like Turkey, Mexico, Argentina, and Chile.
4. Products imported from countries with extremely low wages (less than 25% of U.S. wages on average) or poorly developed regulatory systems would be charged a tariff of 12%. Indonesia, Vietnam, Bolivia, and India are examples of countries in this category.
5. Goods imported from China (or any other nation found to be manipulating the trade environment) would face a tariff in the 20 - 25 percent range.
6. Any products that can’t be grown or produced in the United States would be imported at the 1% tariff rate.
The 1% tariff rate (rather than no tariff) would help to pay for port security and import inspections.
This tariff schedule is part of a comprehensive economic plan detailed in the book "Resuscitating America – An Independent Voter’s Guide to Restoring the American Dream".
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