April 22, 2020 2:59PM

Pandemic Protectionism Gone Wrong

By Jeffrey Miron and Erin Partin

Tariffs, despite what their proponents seem to believe, harm domestic consumers and manufacturers. And this damage is especially bad in difficult economic times

So a new policy that postpones tariff payments for select products might seem like a step in the right direction:

“The Trump administration said it would allow some companies to delay payment of import tariffs due to economic hardship triggered by the new coronavirus.”

Importantly, however,

“President Trump’s special tariffs on Chinese goods and steel and aluminum imports weren’t included in the tariff‐​deferral offering, and other punitive tariffs on dumped and subsidized products also can’t be delayed, according to the temporary rule.”

So the relief is temporary, complicated, and different across industries, correlating with countries the administration dislikes or industries the administration wants to protect; in other words, thinly disguised crony capitalism. Lifting tariffs – in a clean, simple, and neutral way across industries – is the better policy.