The trade war with China, I write in a Bloomberg Opinion column, could yet have a good outcome. But it is plagued by flawed thinking that, among other things, gives us a misleading picture of the potential gains.
A further misconception is that Trump’s tariffs will benefit blue-collar workers in the industrial heartland. That perception may aid Trump politically. The economics are less likely to hold up. If the tariffs do not result in significant Chinese concessions, then some American manufacturing workers will receive protection from imports. But others will see their companies shrink as a result of tariffs on inputs and retaliatory Chinese tariffs.
If, on the other hand, the tariffs yield a breakthrough deal, it’s not going to bring back manufacturing jobs. As Trump’s tweet tacitly conceded, if those jobs leave China, they’re going elsewhere in Asia. Stronger protection for American intellectual property, meanwhile, will generate more jobs in California than in Ohio. For that matter, it will generate more jobs in China, by making it a more attractive place to invest.