A by-product of the Trump administration’s campaign against China’s predatory mercantilist trade policies has been the collection of tens of billions of dollars of tariffs levied on imports.
Yet CNN’s Jim Sciutto insisted Thursday that the U.S. does not collect tariffs.
“We do not collect tariffs,” Sciutto said at a CNN sponsored conference in New York.
Sciutto’s comments came during an interview of White House trade adviser Peter Navarro.
“We’ve collected over $40 billion to date on tariffs,” Navarro said before he was interrupted by Sciutto.
“We don’t collect tariffs,” Sciutto said. “You know that as well. Everybody in the room knows that as well. Manufacturers and consumers pay the tariffs. We do not collect tariffs.”
“You’re not letting me finish here,” Navarro said.
“You know as well as me that’s not an accurate statement,” Sciutto insisted.
Critics of tariffs have often insisted that U.S. consumers indirectly bear the cost of tariffs through higher prices on goods, although official government data on consumer prices do not support that claim. There is no debate, however, about whether the U.S. government actually collects the tariffs.
Tariffs are paid by importers to the U.S. Treasury. The additional tax may be absorbed by the importer, squeezing profit margins, or it may be passed on to consumers. If the exporting country lowers its prices or devalues its currency to keep its products competitive, the exporters are effectively paying for the tariffs.
Sciutto appears to have confused the debate over who pays the tariffs for a debate over whether the U.S. government collects the tariffs at all. But rather than correct his initial mistake, he repeats it and insists that everyone in the room knows he is correct at Navarro is being misleading.