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Much has been made of how businesses are suffering from U.S. tariffs on everything from Chinese steel wiring to plastic tubes. But companies can’t go to the polls in November 2020 and punch a ballot.
American women will, however, and the trade war may provide extra motivation.
Katica Roy, chief executive of Denver-based Pipeline Equity Inc. says the tariffs President Donald Trump has slapped on imports are disproportionately hurting women. If he puts a 10% tax on the remaining $300bn of Chinese products, including consumer items like smartphones and apparel, he risks hurting a segment of voters whose support he can ill-afford to lose.
“As women continue to increase their voting rates and their economic influence, they will continue to vote with their wallets,” Roy says. “That does not bode well for Trump’s 2020 re-election bid.”
Roy starts with the premise that there’s an unintentional but real gender bias in the way U.S. tariff rates are applied on imported products. Those extra costs are passed to consumers. She cites some interesting examples of the so-called pink taxes:
About 75% of the tariff burden that falls on U.S. households were from apparel in 2015, and women shouldered 65% of that load.
On average, men’s apparel is taxed at about 12%, women’s clothing at 15%, according to Roy.
Consider imports of seemingly gender-neutral overalls. The U.S. imposes a 14% tariff on women’s and a 9% duty on men’s.
A pair of women’s hiking boots get a 10% tariff, while the rate for virtually the same pair for men is 8.5%.
In some cases, discrimination goes the other way, Roy says. Men’s swimwear is hit with a 28% border tax compared with a 12% levy on bathing suits for women.
The tariff fallout debate has mostly revolved around economics — the extent to which companies or consumers, or both, are feeling the pain of higher import taxes. But as a wider swath of the American shopping cart gets hit, the gender politics of trade policy may seep more into the discussion.
“More money is going out of women’s wallets compared to men for similar products,” Roy says. “As the tariff burden continues to grow for both genders, it’s worth questioning if, and how, the impact of tariffs help U.S. consumers and the economy as a whole.”
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