SCMP series

Hear a trade lawyer make a huge revelation about multinational corporations and tariffs, as well as answer the crucial question: who actually pays a tariff?


Then we head to Chicago to one of the oldest appliance retailers in town to find out how tariffs affected prices, customers and the way people buy washing machines.

While the CEO of a third generation bicycle company that’s just opened a new factory North Carolina deals with the the double whammy of tariffs on steel and components, his business partners in Shanghai have a new idea: move manufacturing to Cambodia to avoid the tariffs.


But it’s not as easy as just moving a factory to a new location if you want to manufacture bicycles for the US market.


“...it's the difference between continuing my business and shutting it down, because I can't afford the tariffs.”

Join us on a journey to Ho Chi Minh City, where we find Chinese companies that have moved south of the border to avoid the tariffs being levied on the products they make, in turn capitalising on Vietnam’s membership of one of the world’s biggest trade deals.

Finbarr Bermingham travels to a once-busy truckers’ diner to meet Kwok Yip-biu, who has driven trucks back and forth over the border for 30 years. Kwok recalls the “golden era” of Hong Kong as a gateway for trade into and out of mainland China, and how, lately, the trade war has put the brakes on the local economy.

One woman in Philadelphia is trying to live the American dream as an innovator, manufacturer and CEO of her own company. Another woman in Hong Kong is running a company established by her father, exporting gaming hardware to the US. Both have found their businesses may no longer be viable as a result of the trade war - either because of tariffs or from a slightly more oblique concept, known as “non-tariff barriers”.

Naomi Ng goes on a hunt for the Hong Kong engineer who owns the patent for the salad spinner. Her search brings her to the office of Gigi Wong, and an education in what the salad spinner can tell us about intellectual property, the Chinese supply chain, and how the tariffs will affect consumers in the United States.

In this bonus episode of the Behind the tariffs podcast series, attention turns to what has changed in the year since the US-China trade war began. Finbarr Bermingham and Naomi Ng look at what the world can expect following the underwhelming outcome of the meeting between Donald Trump and Xi Jinping at the Osaka G20 meeting, and find out how the ongoing battle of tariffs and trade barriers will have an impact on the 2020 US presidential election.


Presented by

Finbarr Bermingham & Naomi Ng

Field recordings and interviews

Kate McKenna (Chicago), Yang Yang (Shanghai), Cissy Zhou (Ho Chi Minh City), Lisa Harding & King Woo (Hong Kong)

Voiceovers by

Denise Tsang, Joe Kainz, Avery Choi & Arthur Urquiola

Series written and produced by

Jarrod Watt, specialist digital production editor

Editorial support from

John Carter, supervising editor

Laura Warne, digital editor