J.D. Harrison
Former Executive Director, Communications and Strategy


June 06, 2018


It’s easy to get caught up in the recent whirlwind of trade policy developments in Washington and lose sight of the bigger economic picture and what it all really means for our country. One day it’s new tariffs on a given product or country, the next it’s retaliatory tariffs from one of our trading partners, and the next it might be a promising breakthrough or a crippling step backwards on NAFTA negotiations.

So let’s cut through all the clutter for a moment and focus on what matters more than anything when we’re talking tariffs and trade policy – and that’s the expected impact on American jobs. How will these policies help or hurt our nation’s workers?

Here are the four numbers you need to know to answer that question.


That’s the number of U.S. jobs that could vanish due to the White House’s recently announced 25% tariffs (see: taxes) on $50 billion of imports from China, which target many goods used by our country’s manufacturers, according to a study commissioned by the Consumer Technology Association and the National Retail Federation. Chinese government leaders say they will respond with 25% tariffs on $50 billion of imports from the United States, with American-made aircraft, cars and auto parts among the products in their crosshairs. The White House has said it may triple its own tariffs to $150 billion.


That’s the number of American jobs we stand to lose should the administration move forward with proposed 25% tariffs on $350 billion of imports of autos and auto parts from countries like Japan, Mexico, Canada, Germany and South Korea, according to a recent analysis conducted by the Peterson Institute. The move would hobble our nation’s car manufacturers and auto parts businesses (many of which are small businesses), cutting their expected production by 4% and wiping out 5% of their labor force.


Yep, that’s the number of American jobs threatened by the newly imposed tariffs on steel (25%) and aluminum (10%) from most countries, including our allies and trading partners in Canada, Mexico and the European Union, according to an analysis conducted by the Trade Partnership, a trade policy consultancy. Here are two more numbers to keep in mind: Steel prices have already risen40% since the start of the year and are now 50% higher than prices in Europe and China. That’s economically crippling for American businesses and consumers.

1.8 Million

Here’s the big one – that’s the number of American jobs we would lose in just the first year following withdrawal from NAFTA, over which negotiations have stalled and time seems to be running out for a new agreement in the near term. The most likely outcome? Negotiations are put on hold until 2019, although there remains a chance for a last-minute deal of some kind, including a so-called “skinny” agreement that would not need to go through Congress.

Finally, one bonus number: $40 billion. That’s the total announced retaliatory tariffs (so far) by U.S. allies around the world, including Mexico and Canada. More tariffs on U.S. exports means less access to the 95 percent of consumers who live beyond our borders, less opportunity to start and grow businesses across America, and more economic damage and job losses.

In sum, these are dangerous trade policies and proposals that threaten to undermine recent economic progress and eliminate millions of good-paying jobs across America.

About the authors

J.D. Harrison

J.D. Harrison is the former Executive Director for Strategic Communications at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.