With Jack Ma predicting that the trade wars between the United States and China could go on for another 20 years, Global Financial Data has added data on tariffs so our customers can analyze tariffs between countries and over time.  With Donald Trump using tariffs as his primary weapon in his global trade wars, it is important to understand what tariff rates are throughout the world.

GFD has collected data from the World Bank covering over 2800 series on tariffs from every country in the world.  The data include tariff rates for primary products, manufactured products and all products.  It includes data on both the average tariff rates for countries as well as the most favored nation rates. The data begins in 1988 and extends up to 2016.

GFD has also collected data on U.S. tariffs going back to 1790 as the chart below shows.

 

 

 

The graph tells an interesting story of the United States.  The Tariff of 1789 was passed to generate revenues for the federal government, so rates remained high for the next 100 years to fund the government.  Tariffs represented over 80% of federal government revenues between 1790 and 1860.  The Tariff of 1789 set American tariffs at a flat 5%.  The rate rose to around 12.5% by 1810 and doubled to 25% in 1812, increased to 35% in 1816 and to 40% by 1820. Alexander Hamilton and others used the infant industry argument, that tariffs could be used to protect young industries from competition until they matured, to justify the protection of American industry.

Before World War I, the United States had one of the highest tariffs in the world.  There was a brief period in which tariffs were lowered between 1846 and 1861 as a result of passing the Walker tariff in 1846 and the Tariff of 1857 which lowered the rate to 18%. However, the Morris Tariff, signed by James Buchanan in March 1861 raised tariff rates once again. It should be remembered that the North and South strongly disagreed on the issue of tariffs.  The South was generally opposed to tariffs while the North favored tariffs to protect northern industry. Abraham Lincoln called himself a “Henry Clay tariff Whig” and in 1847 declared “Give us a protective tariff, and we shall have the greatest nation on the earth.”

After the Civil War, the Republicans protected American industry with a wall of tariffs. The issue of tariffs was one of the principal issues the nation argued about in the 1890s and 1900s.  It was primarily because of the introduction of the income tax in 1913 that the Underwood Tariff was able to lower rates. In 1915, tariffs represented 30% of federal government revenues.

The Smoot-Hawley Tariff, though almost universally opposed by economists, contributed to the shrinkage of trade during the Great Depression. After World War II, the United States promoted trade liberalization in order to increase economic growth and economic integration.  The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) was established in 1947 and went through several rounds insuring that all countries lowered tariffs simultaneously.  NAFTA created freer trade between the United States, Canada and Mexico in 1994.  GATT morphed into the World Trade Organization in 1995 and the European Union worked to eliminate internal trade barriers between member countries. In 2000, China joined the World Trade Organization.

Consequently, tariff rates have dropped to historically low levels throughout the world and globalization has enabled billions to leave poverty behind forever.  Most economists are opposed to Donald Trump’s support of using tariffs to fight trade wars with the rest of the world.  Now you can use data from GFD to analyze historical trends in tariffs throughout the world.

If you would like a list of the Global Financial Data’s series on tariffs, please feel free to call Global Financial Data today to speak to one of our sales representatives at 877-DATA-999 or 949-542-4200.