Upside To Tariffs: Fewer Supplements in the U.S.

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While trade groups and economists debate the merits or impacts of tariffs designed to create more equality in U.S. trade, one group of barnacles that remain a free rider on the ships of commerce using FDA exemptions, a lack of common sense, and a tariff imbalance is really nervous: The $45 billion American dietary supplement industry.

In a comment they also published on the Proposed Modification of Action Pursuant to Section 301: China's Acts, Policies, and Practices Related to Technology Transfer, Intellectual Property, and Innovation page, the Natural Products Association supplement trade group claims their clients would be severely impacted by tariffs on Chinese imports because so many of their companies buy products from there. They represent 1,100 corporations and say tariffs might lead to job losses. For who? Naturopaths claiming more vitamins will cure autism and cancer? Marketing executives duping gullible people into overpaying for placebos? Are we to believe the margins are so slim that people going into GNC won't pay a few pennies more for natural products they should know they don't need or benefit from? Or that there is not some other country their shoppers can get hepatitis from? 

The trade group suggest companies may have to to move to China, the one place where labor is sure to be cheaper, unless they can only mark-up useless food supplements 450% instead of 500%. How will a growth rate slowing from 12% to 11% suddenly require layoffs? I want all supplement revenue to be -11%, not just the food kind. Yoga teachers can sell more chakra books instead. Drs.Weil, Null, Oz, and Chopra, the Four Horsemen of the Alternative, will segue easily into something besides colloidal silver for people claiming they have Chronic Lyme Disease. Perhaps the whole supplement industry surrounding weight loss, muscle building, and sexual performance Shamanism will collapse due to tariffs. Here's hoping.

Unless it is a strategic resource, like food, energy, or science, I am all for letting the free market find the best solution. If supplement hucksters can have an easier time in a dictatorship like China, this is one time I am happy letting communism win.

If you want to learn more about how the American Council on Science and Health has debunked all of the things supplements don't do, along with the few ways they might help some people with real medical issues, look here.