In terms of tariffs, the European Union has in fact been a bigger offender than the U.S. According to calculations by the Munich-based Ifo Center for International Economics, the unweighted average EU customs duty on American goods is 5.2 percent, versus the U.S. rate of 3.5 percent.
Some examples of steeper EU tariffs on U.S. products include a tax of 20 percent tax on grapes and 17 percent on apples. But the U.S. also imposes higher duties on particular European goods, like its 20 percent tax on certain milk products and 25 percent tax on small trucks. Each instance can be seen as protection of domestic industries.
The EU also currently imposes a 10 percent tariff on U.S. auto imports — compared to U.S. tariffs of just 2.5 percent on European car imports — a target of Trump’s ire when he threatened in late June to levy a 25 percent duty on European cars entering the American market. His meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on July 25 staved off the measure as the two outlined an approach toward a zero-tariff regime on a number of goods. Economists have said that tariffs on autos could pose the biggest threat to the U.S. economy.
Bullard, who oversees the Federal Reserve’s Eighth District and was named in 2014 as the seventh most influential economist in the world, stopped short of fully endorsing the U.S. president’s trade policies. But they may have have set global trade players on a more constructive path, he said.
“It’s controversial, that’s for sure. But I think the discussion should be focused on what’s the end state here,” Bullard, who is not currently a voting member of the central bank, said.
“The end state should be to reignite a global debate on trade — I think that has happened — and to think about where we want to get to. And where we want get to is very few or none in terms of tariff barriers or non-tariff barriers to trade.”