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Americans in Poll Reject Trump’s Claim That China Pays Tariffs

Most Americans don’t think China is paying U.S. tariffs, contrary to what President Donald Trump says, a new survey shows.

About 62 percent of U.S. adults surveyed said American consumers will bear more of the costs of duties than producers in China, according to a Monmouth University poll released Tuesday. An equal percentage were “very” or “somewhat” concerned a trade war would hurt their local economy, according to the poll by the New Jersey-based school.

“Trump’s tariff policy has not won any converts over the past year,” Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, said in a statement. “And now, most Americans say that they will ultimately foot the bill from a widening trade war with China.”

Trump has been saying for months that China is paying the duties he’s imposed on $250 billion of Chinese goods in the escalating trade war between the world’s two largest economies. He reiterated that view over the weekend, saying he doesn’t think that China “can continue to pay these, really, hundreds of billions of dollars in tariffs.”

Government data show that $16.1 billion in duties were assessed on Chinese imports as of May 1. But it’s technically the U.S. importer of record that pays the tariff when a product lands on shore. The importer might choose to bear the higher cost itself, or pass it along to a wholesaler, who might pass it on to a retailer, who may raise the price paid by American consumers.

Many economists see higher consumer prices as an inevitable outcome. An International Monetary Fund blog co-authored by chief economist Gita Gopinath this month concluded that “consumers in the U.S. and China are unequivocally the losers from trade tensions.”

Gus Browning of Austin, Texas, who was a Methodist pastor for 35 years before retiring in 1992, said he got so sick of Trump’s comments about China paying the penalties that he filed a statement during the public comment period for the latest round of proposed tariffs. If enacted, the duties would cover all remaining imports from the Asia nation. Browning urged White House advisers to “please help President Trump understand Economics 101.”

“I’m not an economist, but I understand the way things work well enough to know that China is not paying our tariffs,” said Browning, 92, who usually votes for Democrats, said in a telephone interview.

The Monmouth poll of 802 adults in the U.S. was conducted from May 16-20 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Those surveyed were split on whether Trump’s tariffs are working, with 32 percent saying they are generally good for the U.S., while 37 percent believe they are bad. Thirty-two percent weren’t sure, or said it depends.

Reporting by Mark Niquette.