China tariffs may result in a crippling ‘Bible tax,’ publishers warn

The proposed tariffs on $300 billion-worth of Chinese imports may have an unintended consequence. A feared shortage of Bibles and children’s books will make the reading of Christianity’s holy text and other reads more expensive.

Book publishers say that new levies the Trump administration has threatened to slap on Chinese goods may amount to ‘a Bible tax’, according to Bloomberg. The problem is that the tariffs would target books and other printed materials, including Bibles, which are predominantly printed in China, due to the special printing technology, paper and skills needed for their production.

This is how the Bible may fall victim to the ongoing trade war between the world’s two largest economies, heads of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) and HarperCollins Christian Publishing pointed out at a panel hearing with the US International Trade Commission.

“We believe the Administration was unaware of the potential negative impact these proposed tariffs would have on the publishing industry generally, and that it never intended to impose a ‘Bible Tax’ on consumers and religious organizations,” CEO of HarperCollins Christian Publishing Mark Schoenwald said, as cited by RNS. 

The further escalation of the tariff war may harm the Christian bookseller market, consumers and religious organizations, as prices will inevitably rise because of the tariffs, Schoenwald warned.

“A 25 percent tariff imposed on Bibles would cause a hardship for many publishers,” Stan Jantz of ECPA wrote, calling for the exclusion of the holy text from the tariff hit-list.

Moreover, there is no viable alternative to printing the holy text in China, where some 50 million copies are issued annually, with about 20 million of them going to the US. And not only Bibles, but also children’s books are likely to feel the impact of increased tariffs, as these also need special techniques and materials, publishers warned.

“If tariffs are imposed, there will be fewer books available to American kids,” said Daniel Reynolds, CEO of Workman Publishing Co. in New York.