Publishers of Bibles and children’s books fear that President Trump’s proposed $300 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods will debilitate their industry, leading to a shortage of children’s books and Bibles in the U.S.
“We believe the administration was unaware of the potential negative impact these proposed tariffs would have on Bibles and that it never intended to impose ‘a Bible tax’ on consumers and religious organizations,” said Mark Schoenwald, according to Bloomberg. Schoenwald is the CEO of HarperCollins Christian publishing.
New China Tariffs Have Publishers Worried
President Trump already imposed $250 billion in China tariffs earlier this year, reports ABC News, and China responded by imposing its own tariffs on U.S. goods in the amount of $110 billion. Now the U.S. is threatening an additional $300 billion in tariffs if it cannot come to an agreement with China on a trade deal.
China is key to the production of Bibles and children’s books in the U.S. because of “the unique paper, printing technology and skills needed” for those items. China possesses equipment, as well as waterproof and non-toxic materials, that publishers have difficulty finding elsewhere. Also, U.S printers do not have the capability to take over the amount of printing that China handles. Daniel Reynolds, CEO of Workman Publishing Co., believes that if the new taxes go into effect, American children will have access to fewer books.
Another expert believes that ”some books would be discontinued, publishers might have to scale back, and book stores, schools and libraries would be affected.” Ministries, churches, and Christian publishers are expected to feel the effect of fewer Bibles being printed and of no longer being able to afford the ones that are.
Tariffs and American Businesses
According to ABC, the reason the Trump administration has given for imposing these tariffs is to address economic inequality suffered by American businesses. U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer said, “The economic trade relationship with China has been unbalanced and grossly unfair to American workers, farmers, ranchers and businesses for decades. We put tariffs on certain Chinese products, and are preparing to do more if certain issues cannot be resolved satisfactorily.” Yet American companies are suffering because of the China tariffs that have already gone into effect, and publishers are not the only ones worried about the new ones Trump has proposed.
The tariffs from earlier this year have hurt the bridal gown industry (which buys a lot of silk from China), and more tariffs will do further damage. Apple is another company concerned about additional China tariffs, and according to Reuters, “A wide range of companies this week have told government officials at hearings in Washington that they have few alternatives other than China for producing clothing, electronics and other consumer goods. They have said alternatives would cost more, and that the next round of tariffs could wipe out profits and cost jobs.”
There is hope among Christian publishers that Trump’s popularity among evangelicals will persuade him to change his mind about taxing the production of Bibles. Stan Jantz, head of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, said, “I know there’s a great interest in the area of religious freedom and access to religious goods on the part of the administration. We do hope that there would be an openness and strong consideration for Bibles in particular and also for books.”