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China’s retaliatory tariffs will hit Trump country hard

China imposed tariffs on 128 U.S. goods on April 2. The move is retaliation for tariffs President Trump announced on Chinese aluminum and steel. (Video: Victoria Walker/The Washington Post)

It was inevitable that China would respond in kind to tariffs levied against it by President Trump. The president argued that the trade deficit and Chinese theft of intellectual property necessitated taking economic action. But the net effect is that China also will charge more for American products to enter its country — tariffs that are likely to affect places whose residents voted for Trump more significantly than voters in other areas.

The products to which China will add additional duties include manufactured products such as airplanes and vinyl records. (For some reason.) But they will also apply tariffs to a number of agricultural goods, according to CNBC, including:

  • Yellow soybeans
  • Black soybeans
  • Corn
  • Corn flour
  • Uncombed cotton
  • Sorghum
  • Other durum wheat
  • Other wheat and mixed wheat
  • Tobacco

It won’t surprise you to learn that agricultural areas produce most of these goods. And rural areas supported Trump over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.

Take soybeans. Soybeans are heavily produced in the Mississippi River region and on the East Coast.

If we overlay 2016 election results onto that map, though, the point becomes obvious: A tariff on soybeans affects a lot of places that backed Trump.

We can do the same thing for other products on the list, such as corn, which is heavily produced in the upper Midwest — a region that helped propel Trump’s narrow electoral-vote victory.

The map for wheat is dramatic, encompassing wide swaths of the country, mostly red.

The pattern is the same for cotton, sorghum and tobacco.

If we tally up the vote in each county with significant production of each crop, Trump earns more votes in every case — except for corn-producing counties, which roughly mirrored the national 2016 vote.

This is a rough calculus. Not all soybeans and corn are shipped to China, for one thing. But any action taken by Trump that might negatively affect agriculture is almost necessarily going to affect places that preferred him to Clinton by a lopsided margin.

That seems clearly to be the case with the duties China will apply in retaliation for Trump’s tariffs.