What a Trade War With China Would Mean for Your Wallet

Tariffs and trade wars may sound like plot points on The West Wing, but they can have a very real effect in real life. The world and the United States have been keeping a close eye on the Trump administration's contentions about trade with a number of nations, especially China. If those policies become reality, American consumers could feel the hit.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, a federal agency that recommends trade policies to the president, has just released a list of Chinese products that could see tariffs levied against them. They represent a claim that China engages in unfair competitive practices in the U.S. by stealing American innovations, flooding American markets, and undermining American manufacturers. "Sectors subject to the proposed tariffs include industries such as aerospace, information and communication technology, robotics, and machinery," according to a press release.

For American shoppers, that might lead to a big price hike on consumer electronics, like big-screen TVs, appliances, and even vaccines. The full list contains 1,300 items. Meanwhile, this week China countered with possible tariffs against American exports like cars, planes, orange juice, and soybeans. Given what a huge market China is, this could send prices plunging — in that way where companies struggle, not really in the way where you save big at checkout.

In theory, the whole shebang is about protecting American intellectual property from copycat manufacturers. In reality, it could turn a currently abstract concept into cold, hard facts on the ground.