Even if the United States wins the trade war, it will be far worse off than it was before. The U.S. has a trade deficit with China, but the imports it is putting sanctions on are not ones over which it has a lot of influence. It only imports a small quantity of steel from China, and this represents a small percentage of Chinese exports both to the United States and globally. Firstly, this means that it will not have a large impact on the Chinese economy. Secondly, many of the tariffs hurt American allies to a greater extent, including Canada and South Korea.
The retaliatory tariffs hurt American exports as the higher prices force consumers to go elsewhere. If the U.S. permanently losses its Chinese consumers, then many industries will be substantially damaged. A strong example of this is U.S. soybean exports which account for $3.1 billion of U.S. exports to China.
This industry cannot afford to lose its exports to China.
Also, the tariffs will have a large impact on American jobs. Whilst a few American jobs in steel production will be protected, there are many more jobs in industries that use steel as part of their products that will be harmed by a rise in prices. This means more Americans are likely to be harmed than helped by these tariffs, even before retaliations are put into place.
The tariffs which protect American manufacturing are more politically damaging for two reasons. First, the tariffs raise prices on imported goods for a large number of Americans, especially for the poorest consumers because the greatest percentage of their income is spent on consumption. Second, manufacturing is not moving back to the United States (the intended outcome); instead, manufacturing is moving from China to other countries such as Taiwan, Vietnam, South Korea, Japan, and the European Union.
This damage to Americans means that any politicians that continue to support the trade war are more vulnerable at a future election and are more likely to back down.
Continuing in the trade war will have significant effects on the lives of Americans. It causes the loss of large numbers of jobs in significant industries and an increase in prices of consumer goods making life more difficult for American households. This results in an economic slowdown, leading to wider damaging effects across the country.