US to Impose Tariffs on $250 Billion Worth of Chinese Goods--How Much Is That, Exactly?

The U.S. president has ordered the U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to identify Chinese exports to the United States that will be subject to a 10% tariff on a total value of $200 billion. The new tariffs will be imposed on top of $34 billion in new duties that went into effect last Friday and the $16 billion that are set to become effective in the next few weeks. All told, tariffs will raise prices on $250 billion in Chinese goods imported to the United States.

Whether or not you agree with the new tariff policy, one thing that everyone can agree on is that $250 billion is a lot of money. It’s more than the combined wealth of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos ($112 billion) and Microsoft founder Bill Gates ($90 billion). It’s also more than three times the combined value of all 32 teams in the National Football League.

So, how much is $250 billion anyway? Here are a few more comparisons.

There are only 18 companies traded on U.S. stock exchanges that have a market cap of more than $250 billion. Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Google and Facebook are the top five, with market caps ranging from about $957 billion for Apple to $559 billion for Facebook.

The company that barely squeaks in ahead of the proposed tariff total is Walmart, with a market cap of $257 billion. So one way to look at Trump’s tariffs is to add 10% to 25% to every item sold at Walmart.

Another way to look at the tariff amount is to compare it to the gross domestic product (GDP) of individual U.S. states. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, at the end of 2017, the Trump tariffs are larger than current-dollar GDP in half the states and the District of Columbia: Maine, Rhode Island, Vermont, Delaware, D.C., Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina, West Virginia, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Wyoming, Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada and Oregon.

One last comparison: $250 billion is more than the GDP of 148 countries (about 77% of the world’s 192 countries) including Egypt, Portugal and Peru. Finland’s GDP of $253 billion just barely beats the tariff total.

For the record: According to the U.S. Trade Representative’s office, Chinese exports to the United States had a total value of $505 billion in 2017, compared with a $130 billion total value for U.S. exports to China.