Trade policy upheaval: equilibrium between politics and economics becomes skewed

Oliver Dixon argues that deploying trade as a strategic political weapon will not bode well for today’s globalised economy

Back at the Geneva auto show in March, when the Chief Executive of Volvo’s car business, Hakan Samuelsson, was asked about the question of tariffs, he opined: “Everybody would lose. This includes Volvo because our whole system is based on free trade. And the consumers would lose out because they will have more expensive goods, including cars.”

In June, Daimler AG was the first major company to sound a strident alarm, and to issue a profits warning, on the basis of trade tariffs. “Fewer than expected SUV sales and higher than expected costs — not completely passed on to the customers — must be assumed because of increased import tariffs for US vehicles into the Chinese market,” said the company in the statement that accompanied its second quarter earnings release.

Move on to mid-August and it is all getting rather bad tempered out there. Tariffs are now a regular feature in the Presidential morning Twitter storm and perhaps more importantly, their impact is beginning to glow brightly on corporate income statements….