Trump's tariff war could lead to a Bible shortage

Donald Trump is threatening to impose a 25 per cent tariff on $300 billion of Chinese goods. This will lead to an increase in the price of Bibles printed in China and, possibly, a shortage.

China is the source for an increasing proportion of the world’s printed Bibles, produced at both Amity Press (a joint venture between local charity Amity Foundation and the United Bible Societies), and other large printing plants such as RRDonnelley. These are large-scale printing operations. Amity will print its 200 millionth Bible sometime in November.

“Some believe such a tariff would place a practical limitation on religious freedom.” – Stan Jantz

US-based Bible publishers are protesting the effect Trump’s trade war may have on Bibles. “Proposed tariffs on $300 billion in Chinese goods would include printed materials, which would especially affect Bibles and children’s books predominantly produced in China because of the unique paper, printing technology and skills needed, company and trade group officials testified during the second day of a seven-day hearing on the proposed duties Tuesday,” Bloomberg News reports.

The effects described in this article will be felt in the United States, but there could be knock on effects for Australia, for example where some print runs may be cancelled. Directly sourcing Bibles from China will be more attractive, benefitting groups that print there such as Bible Society Australia, publisher of Eternity.

Describing Trump’s proposal as an unintentional “Bible Tax”, Harper Collins’ Mark Shoenwald told the U.S. International Trade Commission Hearing that a 25 per cent tariff would make it difficult to continue printing some formats and raise prices. Shoenwald predicted this would lead to a Bible shortage that would hurt the Christian bookseller market, as well as ministries, churches, non-profits and other religious organisations that couldn’t afford them.

The Evangelical Christian Publishers Association’s “Rush To Press” blog reports their President Stan Jantz as saying: “There will be significant damage to Bible accessibility if Bibles and books are not excluded from the tariffs.”

“Some believe such a tariff would place a practical limitation on religious freedom. For sure, we know that competitive options for printing Bibles outside of China are limited, especially if the current average price of a Bible is to be maintained.”

US Christians have, it seems, come to rely on China as their supplier of Bibles.

Eternity covered the role of Aussie David Thorne in setting up Bible printing in China, and how the Bible is still widely available in the world’s most populous country.

Bible Society Australia raises money to subsidise Bible Printing, to make sure the Bible is affordable for everyone in China, the home of bible printing.

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