U.S.-China Trade War Timeline: Mapping Industry Trends

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The trade war between the United States and China has been a topic of contention throughout 2018. Proposed tariffs have touched almost every industry, shaking up consensus and sparking new conversations on the future of international trade relations.

This weekend is no different. The latest buzz comes ahead of the G20 Summit in Argentina, where President Donald Trump is expected to talk trade with Chinese General Secretary Xi Jinping. Outlooks on the outcome of the meeting remain largely uncertain. As Trump’s chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow told the New York Times this week:

“There’s a good possibility that we can make a deal, and he is open to it. But if the meeting failed to produce a breakthrough, he said, Mr. Trump was “perfectly happy to stand on his tariff policies.”

Those policies include a Jan. 2019 deadline for raising existing tariffs from 10% to 25% on more than $200 billion in Chinese imports, further escalating the string of newly-imposed policy changes rolled out over the course of the year, and deepening the China-U.S. trade war trenches.

On Wall Street, conversations ebb and flow with each passing policy update. But AlphaSense trends revealed a more in-depth look at how conversations unfold across different industries, painting a more complete picture of how often different sectors discussed the trade war, and when.

Let’s take a closer look:

A thematic search in AlphaSense of the keyword “trade war” across all industries, over the last 12 months, pinpoints exactly when the phrase “trade war” started to be used more heavily across the board. The first initial “spike” kicking off the trend appears the last week of February into early March 2018. Adjusting the Timeframe to focus on that particular week (Feb 27 – March 5), and further sorting by Relevance Score pinpoints the trigger – Trump’s initial steel and aluminum tariff announcement, which hit headlines on March 1, and spilled over into research and analysis for weeks to come.

U.S.-China Trade War AlphaSense

More from AlphaSense: Reactions to Trump’s Steel Tariffs Are All Over the Map

U.S.-China Trade War Trends By Industry

The same method can identify when and how different industries discussed the trade war as new political events unfolded. Let’s look at the automobile industry, for example: 

U.S.-China Trade War AlphaSense

Instances of “trade war” surged during the summer months, when an additional 25% tariff on roughly $50 billion in Chinese exports was announced, and the first roll-out (tariffs on roughly $34 billion in goods), took effect. This resulted in retaliatory measures from China, which imposed additional tariffs of their own – notably, on automobiles.

For some contrast, let’s look at mentions of “trade war” in the tech and telecommunications industries:

U.S.-China Trade War AlphaSense

Looking at the trends, it seems that the trade war has always been somewhat on tech and telecoms’ radar. But major activity doesn’t occur until Fall ‘18, when concerns over exports and supply chain efficiency fell into the spotlight.

Making Sense Of Trade War Trends

With the G20 Summit this weekend, it’s unclear how the trade war will continue to play out into 2019. But with each new change comes the potential for different industries to be affected in different ways.

Understanding different industry trends can help determine, and anticipate, where you should be focusing your attention, and when. As they say, there’s much to learn from the past – and the power of AI-augmented insights can help you make sense of the future.


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