Visualizing The Short History Of America's Trade Wars

History is full of trade wars.

In the majority of cases, the consequences are mostly economic – trade barriers are enacted, and then retaliatory measures are used to counter. Relations can continue to escalate until an understanding can be reached by both parties.

In the minority of cases, trade wars can lead to world-changing consequences.

You may remember that the Boston Tea Party of 1773 was a bold response to an unfair trade measure imposed by a ruling power, and it proved to be a key catalyst that led to the American Revolution.

Meanwhile, the Opium Wars occurred after the Qing Dynasty (China) tried to prevent British merchants from selling opium to the Chinese in the 1830s. These trade barriers led to armed conflicts, and effectively put the nail in the coffin of the Qing Dyasty – the start of China’s infamous “century of humiliation”.


Today’s chart pulls together details on some of the biggest trade conflicts in modern U.S. history.

Courtesy of: Visual Capitalist

Here are some of the more interesting U.S. trade wars, and how they compare to the current spat that is evolving with major trade partners:

1. Smoot-Hawley, 1930

Imposed during The Great Depression, the Smoot-Hawley Act is almost universally recognized by economists and economic historians as triggering a trade war that exacerbated the recovery.

2. Chicken Friction, 1963

Factory farming of chicken in the U.S. ended up catching European farmers off guard. French and German authorities responded by imposing tariffs, and the U.S. then taxed imports such as trucks and brandy.

3. Jabs at Japan, 1981

Japan’s mid-century rise led to the country becoming an export powerhouse. As Japanese cars flooded the U.S. market, intense pressure eventually led to the signing of a Voluntary Export Restraint (VER) agreement that limited sales in the United States. During this same timeframe, the two countries also squabbled about other goods like electronics, motorcycles, and semiconductors.

4. War of the Woods, 1982

The Canada-U.S. Softwood Lumber dispute kicked off in 1982, but it inevitably resurfaces in the news every few years.

5. Pasta Spat, 1985

The U.S. was displeased with the level of access for citrus products in Europe, and put a tariff on pasta products. Europe retaliated by taxing walnuts and lemons from the States.

6. Battle of the Bananas, 1993

Another agricultural trade war, the Battle of the Bananas occurred after Europe slapped tariffs on the import of Latin American bananas. Many of these companies, owned by Americans, were not impressed. In response, there were eight separate complaints filed to the World Trade Organization (WTO). They weren’t resolved until 2012.

7. Steel Salvoes, 2002

These were the last major U.S. steel tariffs introduced before the more recent ones. The goal was similar: to revive the steel industry in the country. However, after a period of brief stability, jobs continued to decline. The European Union responded by taxing oranges exported from Florida.


Rapunzal Tue, 07/17/2018 - 01:06 Permalink

The “Trade Wars” have been so obviously ordered by the central banksters. Trump launched as a scape goat for a crashing world economy. The media is world wide participating in the Trump bashing. The banksters need to destroy the US/Dollar hegemony, psychologically, morally and physically. They need to destroy the US to create their NWO.

cheka Rapunzal Tue, 07/17/2018 - 02:20 Permalink

oh look, another banksters puppet getting frn for propagandizing us

tariff or continue to get bled out by nyc skype

insert any of many charts that show the nyc parasites oversized take of the productive capacity of america since their 'free' trade scam was implemented

bonus points for the author leading off with smoot.....the band-aid that was applied to the bullet hole of monetary debauchery that begat the great depression.  blame the band-aid, not the bullet hole?  stfu

In reply to by Rapunzal

various1 earleflorida Tue, 07/17/2018 - 20:12 Permalink

I am glad that peasantry mutt of this site is shutted on this article (as in stfu, shutted the fuck up) no upvotes, no downvotes... Very quiet, unusually for them. This can only mean that they are not that stupid. Because, frankly nobody of them knows such advanced elite economy perception.

Article is pos also, as in, there were NO trade wars in US history, that would have mattered even slightly as opposed to the usual circus created by interests.

Most upvoted comment is actually the one of historical conservatism: 4 upvotes in 4 hours. That trade wars are good. And indeed so. Some peasants have been brainwashed by globalist corporations of "free market economy" but idiots never realize or even conceive of a fact that it is always 40/60 this to 60/40 that. Bernie was a communist to them, not pro-American. And I was 50/50 Bertine/Trump.

No. Riggit brainwashed peasants by one anti-American interest over another. But this is the true and one of very few issues that matter, only.

There is cure for their stupidity and it is good news.

In reply to by earleflorida

MusicIsYou Tue, 07/17/2018 - 01:34 Permalink

Haha Americans are going to wind up slaves. Because of course it is a fact of history, change never comes without a bloody violent war. But, haha, keep imagining you can vote in change.

Manipuflation Tue, 07/17/2018 - 01:40 Permalink

Bananas?  What could there be about bananas?  There is something very interesting about bananas and if you want want to learn then watch this old school archived movie from 1935.

I'm an idiot and I don't know anything about nothing.  But hey, at least I know where the term "Banana Republic" came from and maybe you will too.

MusicIsYou Tue, 07/17/2018 - 01:43 Permalink

So you think voting changes things, and yet the welfare numbers just increase no matter which party gets elected. And just think, all those welfare people (millions of them) galavant around town 24/7, and not only are they stealing your paycheck, but they are tripping up your ability to produce when they get in your way on the highway. Just think, not only are they stealing from you, but their car gets in the way of you driving to make money that they steal in the first place. Just think about that for a second, and realize they are double fcking you.

MonsterSchmuck Tue, 07/17/2018 - 01:45 Permalink

Our financial sector has been lobbying for these trade policies and directing business leaders to gut our industries- labor, maintenance, taxes, down to not cleaning the damn buildings in order to what? Stay more competitive? That’s pure horse shit. It’s to drive those revenues back to themselves. They want more gold eggs from the goose every quarter if they have to strangle it to death. 

Trade wars are normal, healthy and will always exist when your finacial sector is contaminated with greedy elitist shitbags. 

MusicIsYou Tue, 07/17/2018 - 01:58 Permalink

Haha Americans don't want to have to act about anything, so haha, their standard of living will continue to drop to nothingness. Make a mental note that your standard of living is going to continue to drop without end, just memorize that, because it is coming.

Manipuflation MusicIsYou Tue, 07/17/2018 - 02:17 Permalink

I love history and there is a reason why many Americans are the way they are.  It's about war but that is not uniquely Merican.  We all came from your fucking countries where you are all cunts.  My progenitors did not say a word about any of it and I never got a chance.  Don't fucking deny the fact that your country sucks too.  You are just the same as us.

Our central bank can do what it wants and yours can't.  Do whatever you want.  Nations pretend to be civilized like we live in Queen Victoria's time.  That is obviously not so.      

In reply to by MusicIsYou