The restaurants of American suburbia love Trump’s trade war

On the menu: Tariffed meat
On the menu: Tariffed meat
Image: AP Photo/Steve Helber
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For the same reason many American farmers dislike president Trump’s trade wars, the Olive Gardens, Applebees, and Texas Roadhouses sprinkled across the country love them. Trump’s tit-for-tat tariffs are making meat a lot cheaper to buy, which in turn has allowed chain restaurants to implement sweeter dining deals as a way to lure people through their front doors.

Olive Garden is promoting a $8.99 dinner special. McDonald’s is pushing a new $6 meal that includes a sandwich, drink, fries, and a pie. At Applebee’s soon you’ll be able to get an “all-you-can-eat” riblet dinner, or you can choose a new two-meat combination dinner for $12.99, according to Bloomberg.

Because the US implemented tariffs on Mexican metal going into the US, the Mexican government in July slapped a 20% tariff (pdf) on American chilled and frozen pork. In a similar retaliatory measure, China in April put the total tariffs and taxes on US pork at 78% (pdf), as well as a new tariff on US soybeans, which are a main component in animal feed.

Mexico and China are the US pork industry’s first- and third-largest export markets, respectively. With tariffs in place, the US is doing less business with them, which has led to a glut in pork and soybean supplies. It’s driven down prices, which is great for consumers but bad for the businesses that produce those commodities.

In November, the US Meat Export Federation took stock of the year, noting that tough times are likely ahead for the pork market. “Pork exports have also held up (pdf) relatively well, but unfortunately the obstacles US pork faces in China and Mexico are putting a lot of pressure on export value,” the group said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the parent company of Applebee’s, Dine Brands, is pleased with the current trajectory. In an interview with Bloomberg, Dine Brands CEO Steve Joyce said food costs would likely continuing decreasing well into 2019, “as long as those tariffs stay in place and the inventories continue to build.”