Fear is rippling through the Christian bookseller industry in the US.
Publishers say that if Donald Trump’s proposed tariffs of 25% or “much higher” on an additional $300 billion worth of Chinese goods kicks into effect—which he has threatened to do if Chinese president Xi Jinping refuses to meet at the G20 summit—Bibles will be made much more expensive in the US.
Printed materials are included in the extensive list of Chinese goods that would be hit with the latest duties. Particularly hard hit would be Bible producers, according to testimony submitted by HarperCollins Christian Publishing ahead of the seven-day public hearing on the tariffs that began on Monday (June 17).
“Due to the unique paper, printing, and binding needs of Bible production there are simply no U.S. vendors that could produce any significant portion of the volume needed to meet the demands of the U.S. market,” wrote Mark Schoenwald, president and CEO of the company. According to Schoenwald, HarperCollins Christian Publishing accounts for 38% of the US Bible market. No US vendor would be able to meet the demands of the US market, and a 25% tariff on religious materials “could result in a Bible shortage” that would “cause economic harm throughout the Christian Bookseller market.” Ministries, churches, and other religious organizations may also no longer be able to afford bibles.
The overwhelming majority of Bibles in the US are printed in China, according to Christianity Today. China also became the world’s largest Bible publisher in 2012, according to Chinese state news agency Xinhua.
Schoenwald elaborated further when he testified before officials at the U.S. International Trade Commission yesterday (June 18).
“We believe the administration was unaware of the potential negative impact these proposed tariffs would have on Bibles and that it never intended to impose ‘a Bible tax’ on consumers and religious organizations,” he said, according to Bloomberg (paywall).
Still, given that evangelical Christians have staunchly supported Trump, publishers like Stan Jantz of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association hope that the president will exempt Bibles from the tariffs, according to Bloomberg.