Global supply chains are being redesigned as the US attacks free trade, but are there really any safe harbours?

In case you hadn’t noticed, US President Donald Trump likes tariffs. Since he entered office in January 2017 to the end of last year, his actions saw the ratio of US imports covered by some form of trade protection rise from 2.3% to 14.9%. That figure will rise to 100% if he follows through on his threat to slap tariffs on the remaining non-tariffed Chinese imports.

His weaponisation of tariffs is forcing cargo owners to seek cover and re-shape global supply chains to avoid the fallout. There is very clear evidence from customs data that trade flows into the US have moved away from China to other locations of origin over the past year or so (see Figure 1), with even the whiff of potential new tariffs hastening that movement.