CTA to USTR: Trade War Has No Winners

The Consumer Technology Association, no big fan of tariffs, took aim at the Trump Administration's billions of dollars in new tariffs on Chinese tech.

That came in testimony to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR).

VP of international trade Sage Chandler pulled out the rhetorical stops, saying the proposed $16 billion in tech tariffs would put consumers "at risk" of price increases, disproportionately "fall" on the poor and elderly, "harm" industries the President is trying to protect, and "destroy" jobs.

Related: Tech Groups Balk at ICT Tariffs

The filing also uses terms like "war," "danger," "hurt," "harm" and "suffer" to drive home its point that trade wars are bad for the U.S., and the answer to China's "unfair and discriminatory trade practices" is not punitive tariffs that "raise prices for American manufacturers and consumers, generate business uncertainty, and create long-term negative consequences to the U.S. economy."

Among the categories of products CTA is asking the USTR to remove from the tariff list if the Administration proceeds with that policy are antennas, integrated circuits, diodes, connectors for optical fibers, switches, amplifiers and conductors.

In a speech at the Department of Commerce two weeks ago, Vice President Mike Pence made it clear the White House was committed to the tariffs.

"Earlier this month, our administration began implementing up to $50 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods and last week, at the President’s direction, we began the process of imposing tariffs on an additional $200 billion of Chinese imports," he said. "Let me be clear: This is not the first blow. In fact, these and future tariffs are commensurate to the damage that China has done to the American economy through forced technology transfers from our businesses to theirs, as well as their broader trade policies."

And if China continues to retaliate for the tariffs, he said, "America will not back down. Our resolve will never break. And we will keep taking strong action to protect American workers until China changes course."

Related: President Mandates Review of China IP Threat

Despite that tough talk, the Administration also earlier this month lifted a ban on U.S. tech imports to Chinese telecom ZTE, even though it was identified as a potential national security threat. The Administration pointed to the $2.2 billion ZTE had ponied up in penalties in the deal it struck to get the ban lifted, as well as the U.S. settlement compliance monitoring team's unprecedented access to the company.

In a related move, the conferees on the National Defense Authorization Act this week stripped that must-pass legislation of a Senate-passed provision that would have reinstated the ban on U.S. tech imports to ZTE.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.