Animal Agriculture will be hurt by a Trade War; but does that make it worth it?

I don’t get super political on this page, but I am a political junkie and a public policy wonk. I have been following the ongoing and escalating trade tensions between the United States and, basically, every other major country when I realized an interesting juxtaposition with veganism. All of these tit-for-tat threats have implications for vegan economics (or maybe, veganomics) because the animal agriculture and soy industries are expected to be damaged by this. Tariffs imposed by China on US beef, pork, and soy (which is primarily used to feed “livestock” in China) means that exporters will have to increase costs or reduce supply to remain competitive, so they would take a financial loss. Tariffs imposed by Mexico on cheese means the same things for dairy farmers, too. The other thing that can happen is that the industry can adapt and repurpose their products to bypass trade barriers, like how milk farmers have begun selling powdered milk and other dairy alternatives in Canada to get around their “supply management” system.

All of this made me wonder: should I be cheering for a trade war? Ostensibly, it is a good thing that the animal agriculture industry will be hurt by these conflicts. But on the other hand, it’s hard to cheer for farmers and their families going through a fiscal downturn and the social harms that come with it. This is a great example of when the theories and the pursuit of a vegan world bump up against the real world. Now just to be clear, I am not trying to imply that we should defend or protect these industries; rather, I am trying to point to the real-life impact of what happens when these seismic shifts do happen. It isn’t necessarily good if a result of abolishing these markets is massive job loss, inflation or deflation, and stress to farmers and their families. Therefore, mitigating the negative effects is a far better alternative. (And let’s not forget that that sounds a lot like what Trump supporters were concerned about, that all these righteous pursuits like using less oil and coal led to economic instability for large regions of the country. We do not need that to happen again.) In fact, what makes this vicissitude so foreboding for US farmers and exporters is that there seems to be no thought from the White House about how to mitigate these problems. This issue is following the same pattern exhibited by the White House these days: Trump’s stupid positions, which have little to no basis in today’s common norms or our constitutional structure, must somehow be translated into coherent, lawful, and semi-rational policies.

Beyond the plight of the farmers and their families are the implications for the globalized world we live in. This system that has allowed – for better or worse – the development of dozens of counties, the proliferation of ideas, technology, and innovation, and most importantly, created an international landscape wherein there are mutual interests in overall stability. Trading and growth are nice, but what’s better is having all countries whose economies are connected use nonmilitaristic tools for exercising leverage, which is called soft power. To me, those foreign policy and geopolitical implications are the most important part of this system. In spite of the progress that’s been enabled by this system, however, it’s been dramatically undermined by President Trump.

These trade disputes are just another component of his agenda of disestablishmentarianism and tyranny – that’s his long-game here. For example, the US recently stepped-off from the UN Human Rights Council, President Trump has condemned multilateral deals and argues the US should enter a series of bilateral deals instead, and he has raised doubts about the US commitment to NATO at a time when tensions with Russia are high. There are also political reasons for these actions as well. For example, it has been argued that Trump has been threatening tariffs on China as leverage to get them to improve Intellectual Property protections for American businesses in China. Regarding Canada, Trump has long complained about their supply management system, which artificially keeps the prices of domestic milk high and restricts imports of milk from America. And lastly regarding the European Union, Trump has complained about trade deficits and barriers, particularly with France and Germany. Again, the problem with Trump trying to address his concerns is that he is making these abrasive moves without considering or even seeming to care for the effects.

Ultimately, I am against this impending trade war our stupid President has put us in for two reasons. First and foremost, his approach has been autocratic and brash, ignoring his cabinet, advisors, and counterparts. Secondly, this system of globalization is so important that it must be protected; and if changes are needed, such as abolishing animal agriculture, they ought to be done within the system. I don’t think that the harm this will do animal agriculture makes this trade war justified, but as of last Friday, July 6th, it has begun with the US imposing a 25% tariff on $34 billion of Chinese products, which they swiftly reciprocated.

The most dangerous aspect of the Trump regime is how stupid, careless, and impulsive the President is. He is an idiot, bigly.


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