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2018: A Timeline of Trump-Induced Tariffs

If anything, 2018 may be remembered as the year of the tariff.

What started as steel and aluminum tariffs, which President Trump employed as a matter of threatening national security in hopes of helping to Make America Great Again by correcting its trade deficit with other nations, devolved into a full-blown trade war with key powerhouse economies involved.

First to respond to Trump’s metal tariff was China, which levied roughly $3 billion worth of tariffs on U.S. products, which will impose 15 percent tariffs on some products, like fresh fruit, wine and steel pipes, designed as a hit to U.S. farmers and those in largely Trump-supporting steel states.

Then came Trump’s first tranche of China tariffs, $50 billion worth on more than 1,300 tariff lines, imposing new tariffs on things like: textile printing machinery, carding machines for preparing textile fibers, textile spinning machines, machinery for producing textile yarns, weaving machines, circular knitting machines, flat knitting machines, embroidery machines, spindles and sewing machines—and many of the parts that go into operating those machines.

From there, China hit back with $50 billion in tariffs on U.S. goods, including uncombed cotton and cotton linters.

When Trump extended his steel and aluminum tariffs to include the European Union, Canada and Mexico (which were previously exempted), the EU’s response came in the form duties on 2.8 billion euros ($3.3 billion) worth of U.S. products, including 25 percent tariffs on T-shirts made of cotton, wool or other textile materials, and men’s, boy’s, women’s and girl’s cotton denim trousers and cotton shorts.

Tranche two came as Act II of the first $50 billion in China tariffs, removing some items of the initial 1,300-strong list and adding others.

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And it was more of the same after that: China retaliated, Canada stepped in with its own tariff-fueled response, and Trump dropped tariffs on another $200 billion worth of goods from China. This time, cotton and nearly all things related to textile production (cotton yarn, cotton sewing thread, cotton woven fabric, cotton waste) were fated to face new 10 percent tariffs. Nylon yarn, polyester yarn, woven and nonwoven fabrics, lace, leather and tulle made the list. Apparel and clothing made of plastic and furskins also took a hit. That was tranche three.

The threats didn’t stop there either. China responded with another $60 billion in U.S. goods tariffs and Trump said he’d raise the 10 percent tariffs on the $200 billion worth of goods to 25 percent, and possibly even slap tariffs on the remaining $267 billion worth of goods the U.S. brings in from China—which would include apparel, textiles and footwear.

At the Sourcing Journal Summit in New York in October, trade experts said there’ll be more tariffs ahead.

“Tranche 4 is coming,” said Steve Lamar, executive vice president of the American Apparel and Footwear Association. “The president has, on multiple occasions, indicated that if the Chinese retaliate on the previous tranches, he will retaliate with the rest of trade…He’s promised this a number of times and the Chinese have retaliated, so it’s up to the president to decide if he’s going to carry through with that, and we believe that he will.”

Since then, the high tensions have abated somewhat, with a recent meeting between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping resulting in a 90-day truce on trade that would see any changes to tariffs halted until the two sides can perhaps come to some sort of satisfactory agreement.

However, many believe that at the end of that three-month period, the industry will be met with more of the same: uncertainty and added tariffs.

“Companies should be using this 90-day period to reevaluate, rethink and renew their strategic sourcing to protect themselves going forward,” Gail Strickler, president of global trade for Brookfield Associates, LLC wrote in a recent article.

If you had as difficult a time as we did keeping track of what happened with tariffs when, scroll through the timeline below for a brief history of 2018 in tariffs.