An expert on international trade law spoke to us earlier this week prior to the official announcements by the U.S. and China of the products that are part of the trade conflict that is ongoing.
“There are two separate cases going on,” said Raj Bhala, the Brennesein Distinguished Professor at the University of Kansas Law School, and a Senior Advisor at Dentons. “One is a case that the United States has brought on steel and aluminum under section 232 of the Trade Act of 1962. That is a national security action case, where the United States alleges that imports of steel and aluminum are impairing our national security. The second case is a case brought under section 301 of a different statute, the Trade Act of 1974. That is a case brought against China in particular on its alleged misappropriation of intellectual property.”
Bhala doesn’t believe that the world looks at both actions the same way.
“My own opinion is that the two actions are conceptually different in terms of the support that they engender from friends and allies around the world,” said Bhala. “I think there’s a lot of skepticism about the 232 action. Many countries just don’t believe that the steel and aluminum tariffs are really about impairment of national security. On the other hand, there is a lot of understanding, even sympathy, or feeling of victimization as well, like the U.S., with the 301 action.”
Many businesses have let the U.S. know either formally or informally of their concerns about intellectual property theft.
“They are tired of being threatened by Chinese patent, trademark, copyright and trade secret theft,” said Bhala. “I daresay there will be more support on 301 action then there has been on the 232 action.”
None of the tariffs against China have actually been implemented by the U.S. yet. The process of deciding the exact scope of anything implemented could take a couple of months.