Oh, so NOW you want our goods
By Scott Sumner
My wife follows “Wechat” discussions, and tells me that among the Chinese there are a lot of eyebrows being raised about the US decision to eliminate tariffs on medical equipment from China. Needless to say, the US is currently held in pretty low esteem among the Chinese people.
Matthew Rowan, president of the Health Industry Distributors Association, which represents wholesalers supplying physicians’ offices, hospitals and nursing homes, testified that “health-care products are essential to the nation’s pandemic- and emergency-readiness capabilities.”
“The risks to health care and public health from tariffs outweigh any benefit to trade or economics,” he said.
Of course there is almost never any “benefit to trade or economics” from tariffs on imported goods. I hope this epidemic makes people understand that there is only one world, and we are all in it together. (Check out Pierre Lemieux’s post.)
Some will say that this case shows the need to be self-reliant. In fact, the opposite is true. China is rapidly ramping up production of facemasks and other goods, while our manufacturers are simply not capable of doing so as quickly as the Chinese. Of course the first best solution would have been to stockpile supplies of essential equipment, as other countries did. But apparently that’s too much to ask of the country that was ranked best prepared to meet the epidemic.
Here’s a question for commenters who are better informed than I am. Last time I looked, there were over 2000 coronavirus cases in Northern Europe, and only 4 deaths. Is that death rate just due to the fact that they are relatively new cases, and more will eventually die, or is there some other explanation? Perhaps testing is more complete in Northern Europe? I ask because the death rate appears to be an order of magnitude higher in places like France, Spain and Italy (and the US), and for reasons that are not clear to me.
PS. In the past, I’ve argued that taxing Bill Gates at a higher rate effectively transfers money from the world’s poorest people to average Americans. Thus I enjoyed this tweet:
HT: Eliezer Yudkowsky