A recent report from the Republican Study Committee’s Task Force on National Security and Foreign Affairs (RSC Task Force) proposes several proactive strategies to counter global threats to the United States. This is an important report that suggests pragmatic strategies to promote U.S. economic and foreign policy interests.
The report’s section on China is especially helpful, because it proposes several specific legislative alternatives to tariffs that could do a much better job of promoting U.S. interests. According to the report:
“First, we must push back against China’s industrial espionage and intellectual property theft and malign economic behavior. Second, we must stop China’s malign political influence and disinformation campaigns. Third, we must stand up to China’s human rights violations. Fourth, we must counter China’s global military modernization. Fifth, we must strengthen our alliances in the Indo-Pacific region.”
Specifically, the RSC calls on the United States to expand trade in the region, especially with countries threatened by Chinese dominance. It suggests pursuing bilateral free trade agreements with our partners in Southeast Asia. Countries like Japan, the Philippines, India, Taiwan, Indonesia, Vietnam and Mongolia are some potential prospects. The report points out that this approach would promote economic prosperity in the United States while countering China’s influence.
With respect to theft of intellectual property (IP) by China, the RSC cites Derek Scissors from the American Enterprise Institute: “Tariffs hit all makers of selected products, not just bad actors. ‘Snapback’ tariffs if China keeps stealing IP would also punish everyone. The thieves at least might get what they’re chasing; firms which obey U.S. laws just get the tariff. Tariffs are the wrong tool on IP.”
Instead, the RSC proposes several approaches, ranging from making it more difficult for Chinese companies that have stolen IP to evade accountability in U.S. courts, to authorizing the U.S. Treasury Department to sanction foreign individuals and institutions that are involved in significant theft of IP or cyberespionage.
These and other measures are a welcome alternative to tariffs as a “tool” to persuade China to change. So far, these tariffs have cost American taxpayers more than $55 billion, subjected farmers and ranchers to costly retaliatory tariffs, and empowered China’s state-owned enterprises. Clearly, it’s time for a new approach.
This just scratches the surface of the 120-page RSC report, including 25 pages dedicated to China. It is encouraging that in an era where many politicians are espousing knee-jerk proposals that would make us more like China and erode our freedom, or delegate more responsibility to the executive branch, the RSC has sought to provide a better alternative.