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Do Allegations of IP Theft by the Chinese Justify Uncle Sam’s Violations of American Consumers’ Rights?

Summary:
In my latest column for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, I challenge the case that allegations of intellectual-property theft by the Chinese justify Trump’s tariffs. A slice: The World Trade Organization (WTO) has in place a mechanism to settle IP disputes among its member nations, which include the U.S. and China. And China’s record at complying with WTO rulings is not bad. If the Trump administration were truly concerned about reducing Chinese violations of Americans’ IP rights, its first step — before inflicting painful tariffs on Americans — would be to bring complaints of such violations to the WTO. Yet so far it has brought only one such complaint. This fact suggests that the administration cares less about whatever actual IP theft might be occurring and more about being able to

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In my latest column for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, I challenge the case that allegations of intellectual-property theft by the Chinese justify Trump’s tariffs. A slice:

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has in place a mechanism to settle IP disputes among its member nations, which include the U.S. and China. And China’s record at complying with WTO rulings is not bad. If the Trump administration were truly concerned about reducing Chinese violations of Americans’ IP rights, its first step — before inflicting painful tariffs on Americans — would be to bring complaints of such violations to the WTO. Yet so far it has brought only one such complaint.

This fact suggests that the administration cares less about whatever actual IP theft might be occurring and more about being able to fling charges of IP theft as a convenient means of stirring up public support for protective tariffs.

Further evidence that the administration really isn’t deeply worried about China’s alleged IP theft is its indifference to Uncle Sam’s high and growing fiscal indebtedness.

If we rank the looming threats to our future economic well-being, IP theft ranks much lower than does our children’s and grandchildren’s burden of paying off Uncle Sam’s gargantuan debt — debt in the form of outstanding bonds and of unfunded liabilities, such as Social Security obligations.

But judging from their (in)actions, Trump and Congress couldn’t care less about the heavy drag on the American economy created by Uncle Sam’s continuing fiscal profligacy.

Proclamations of concern for Americans’ economic future coming from politicians who ignore an approaching fiscal reckoning — a reckoning made more difficult with each day that its approach continues to be ignored — are not to be taken seriously.

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Don Boudreaux
He is a professor of economics at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Previously, he was president of the Foundation for Economic Education.

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