A trade law expert notes that the Trump administration has laid out a strong case for the positions it is attempting to defend in its trade war with China.
“No longer does the United States see Chinese economic growth, specifically, Chinese Communist Party led central planning, to be in its economic interest,” said Raj Bhala, the Brennesein Distinguished Professor at the University of Kansas Law School, and a Senior Advisor at Dentons. “Indeed, it sees that the Party is pursuing a Made in China 2025 policy that the United States says has a number of adverse effects on its economy.”
The United States is accusing China of intellectual property theft or misappropriation, cyber attacks that result in the stealing of trade secrets and overcapacity in critical industries like steel and aluminum and restrictions on cloud computing along with market access more generally. The Trump administration has laid out its case in a couple of critical documents.
“One was issued by the U.S. trade representative, one was issued by the White House itself, that laid out the case,” said Bhala. “One is well over 250 pages, the other one is about 35 pages, sourced from around the world in terms of footnotes and citation. It’s a very, sort of carefully laid out, well documented case. Then a third document came from one of the written testimonies given by one of our Admirals, who is now the commander of the Pacific command, that
explained that link between economic innovation and development as relied on through IP and the technology on the one hand and then the national security on the other hand.”
Bhala notes that the case is compelling enough that other countries are taking notice of it.
“Many of our traditional allies, EU, for example, have said, we do agree with the claims the United States is making against China,” said Bhala. “We don’t agree with the means that the U.S. is using to take on China. They don’t like the Section 301 tariffs and trade war that’s starting and that’s for good reason from their perspective. The actual underlying claims are getting widespread support, though sometimes quiet support. Other countries don’t want to be too vocal
sometimes about taking on China.”
It appears at this point that this trade war is just getting started, as any action at the World Trade Organization on the case would take years to implement and is being delayed because the appellate body the case would go to is not fully staffed and the United States is blocking appointments to that appellate body, as well. Bhala believes it is time for those who need to market their goods to explore how to find other markets for those items at least in the short term and that it may take awhile to develop those new markets.
To provide further context, below is the interview with Bhala in its entirety.