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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

We are now, officially, in a full-fledged trade war. Effective Monday morning, President Trump will be taxing half of China’s imports into the US, with aggressions set to intensify further in January when the tariff rises from 10% to 25%.

Trump's bigger-picture view is well-known: "TRADE IS BAD." That's all trade, not just trade with China. So be wary of rushing to the conclusion that Vietnam and other southeast Asian countries could end up being the winners in this trade war, as companies move their operations out of China. More realistically, as in most trade wars, there will be no winners at all.

  • The trade war could become a currency war if the Chinese government continues to keep weakening the yuan as tariffs hit domestic exporters. That's not a likelihood, yet, but it's something to worry about.
  • Trump doesn't begin to understand Ricardo's principle of comparative advantage, and he also doesn't understand tariffs. (He thinks they're paid by China, when in fact they're paid by American importers.) When the guiding principle at the top of the US government is "trade is bad," it's hard to see what would cause this war to end.

This trade war could last for decades, if not forever. American voters share Trump's ignorance of Ricardo, which means that there's not much political incentive for a president of either party to rapidly normalize trade relations.

  • Canada is in the crosshairs, too: Trump has threatened its "ruination" in the event that a new NAFTA deal isn't reached.
  • So far, market reaction to the trade war has been muted. That's bad news. If the tariffs had been greeted by a 900-point plunge in the Dow, Trump might take the wails of pain more seriously.
  • Alibaba's pledge to create 1 million US jobs has already been vaporized. It won't take long for real jobs to go the way of hypothetical ones.

Go deeper

45 million Americans under winter storm watches near New England

Computer model projection showing the winds moving around the powerful East Coast storm on Saturday Jan. 29, 2022. Image: https://earth.nullschool.net

Nearly 45 million Americans are under winter weather alerts and warnings from North Carolina to northeastern Maine, as a major winter storm threatens the region.

Why it matters: It is predicted to be the biggest blizzard since 2018 to strike the Northeast with more than 2 feet of snow possible in parts of eastern Massachusetts, according to the National Weather Service.

2 hours ago - World

Australian PM pledges $700M for climate change-threatened Great Barrier reef

A green sea turtle is flourishing among the corals at Lady Elliot island in Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Photo: Jonas Gratzer/LightRocket via Getty Images

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Friday a AU$1 billion ($703 million) investment plan for the Great Barrier Reef.

Why it matters: The nine-year plan for projects including water quality improvement, reef conservation and supporting some 64,000 tourism jobs comes months ahead of this year's federal election. It has been criticized by scientists and environmental groups for failing to tackle climate change.

Judge nixes Gulf of Mexico oil leases in climate-focused ruling

Tug boats prepare to tow the semi-submersible drilling platform Noble Danny Adkins through the Port Aransas Channel into the Gulf of Mexico on December 12, 2020 in Port Aransas, Texas. Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

A federal judge on Thursday canceled the Biden administration's late 2021 sale of new oil-and-gas drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico.

Why it matters: The ruling that the greenhouse gas emissions analysis by the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) was insufficient is a win for green groups that challenged the decision, as they seek to curb fossil fuel production.