U.S., Chinese consumers ‘unequivocal losers' in trade war, IMF says

Despite President Donald Trump’s assertion that America can “win” a trade war with China, a new analysis from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) makes clear there are losers on both sides of the Pacific.

Tensions remain high between the world’s two largest economies, as global markets grapple with a trade war that seems to have no end in sight.

Even as the president argues his offensive is meant to protect the U.S economy, IMF data shows that consumers in both countries are “unequivocally the losers” in a trade war.

President Donald Trump, right, with China's President Xi Jinping, left, during their bilateral meeting at the G20 Summit, Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

“While the impact on global growth is relatively modest at this time, the latest escalation could significantly dent business and financial market sentiment, disrupt global supply chains, and jeopardize the projected recovery in global growth in 2019,” the fund wrote in a blog post.

“At the global level, the additional impact of the recently announced and envisaged new US-China tariffs, expected to extend to all trade between those countries, will subtract about 0.3 percent of global GDP in the short term, with half stemming from business and market confidence effects,” IMF economists added.

U.S. consumers will bear the cost of tariffs imposed on Chinese goods.

The fund’s data shows that most of the tariff revenue collected has been shouldered almost exclusively by U.S. importers. Some of those fees have been passed onto American consumers for goods like washing machines, while other companies have absorbed the costs, depressing margins.

Those costs could steepen if the U.S. levies additional tariffs on an extra $300 billion of Chinese goods.

“A further increase in tariffs will likely be similarly passed through to consumers,” the fund’s economists wrote. “While the direct effect on inflation may be small, it could lead to broader effects through an increase in the prices of domestic competitors.”

But the impact on producers isn’t as clear-cut, and may produce “some winners and many losers,” according to the note.

“Some US and Chinese producers of goods competing in domestic markets with imports affected by tariffs, as well as competing third country exporters, are potential winners.”

Still, producers from both countries affected by the tariffs, “as well as producers that use those goods as intermediate inputs, are potential losers,” according to the IMF.

Producers took a hit through trade diversion and also market segmentation, but also in market valuations, where companies with exposure to Chinese markets suffered losses.

Meanwhile, U.S. corporations with large exposure to China also saw their stocks fall sharply after China retaliated against the U.S.’s tariff action, IMF data showed.

Equity prices of US companies with high exposure to China underperformed relative to American businesses with exposure to other international markets.

If left unresolved, the IMF warned that ongoing tensions could disrupt global supply chains. Consumer goods could become less affordable, and harm low-income households disproportionately, the fund cautioned, during an already “delicate year” for the global economy.

Kristin Myers is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.

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