Is it time to consider lifting tariffs on Chinese imports?


Recently, there has been talk, but no action, of eliminating some or all of the tariffs on Chinese imports that were instituted by the Trump administration.

The debate involves salient arguments on both sides. It is part of a much larger set of issues over which the two countries have managed to alienate each other. This includes everything from blame over COVID-19 to the suppression of minorities in China, to US policy towards Taiwan and “One China”, to military action in waters adjacent to China to support Russia in its campaign against Ukraine. That’s quite a long list for the world’s two largest economies, which are linked by some of the busiest trade routes.

If the situation were a business analogy, it would be as if a company not only intensely competes with its important suppliers and customers, but also takes steps to distance itself from them, potentially putting them out of business. You might consider this borderline insane.

The issue has caught the attention of no less prominent observer than Henry Kissinger, who recently told Bloomberg News editor John Micklethwait that current and recent U.S. administrations “have been too influenced by the domestic aspects of the view of China”. .” Kissinger urged world leaders to recognize “the importance of understanding China’s permanence.” Anyone who has spent time in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan would have no trouble recognizing the “permanence of China”.

“Perhaps this is proof that common sense still prevails in the business world.”

Before continuing, I should insert a disclaimer. I was a member of a group of about 100 faculty members called the Committee for Alternatives at Ohio State University in the 1960s. Our mission was to stimulate debate on important issues in a community whose media were controlled at the time by a family with a unique point of view. This landed me on a list prepared by a former student (and ignored by the person he sent it to, the president of OSU) of people not qualified to teach at the university. Supporting evidence, among other things, was signed advertisements that we ran that presented information and opinions on a variety of issues. One that particularly caught his eye was a column titled “Trading with Red China” which highlighted the pros and cons of any trade between the United States and China.

Throughout the current controversies, the trade continues. This is perhaps proof that common sense still prevails in the business world. But it raises the question of whether it’s time for the United States to send even a small message of positive intent toward China by prioritizing negotiations that would eliminate tariffs on goods purchased and sold between the two countries. Could it be defended at home as a step towards reducing inflation in the United States? Maybe, although economists told us the effects would be small. How much would actually accrue to consumers?

The main opposition to such a move seems to be the American unions. Others discuss the importance of maintaining national security. Could they be persuaded to support such a move if the US government were to invest in US industries at the same time, perhaps similar to the recent decision by Congress to fund the development of the US computer chip industry?

There would be complaints from American manufacturers protected by the current tariffs. But relying on tariffs for protection is a questionable strategy for long-term success. In the United States, we have notoriously failed to restore manufacturing jobs in basic industries because it goes against a fundamental lesson of comparative advantage that we learned years ago in Economics 101. elimination of tariffs on Chinese products, many of which would be better suited to production in China, make at least a small contribution to the necessary restructuring of American industry?

Is it time to consider lifting tariffs on Chinese imports? What do you think?

Share your opinion in the comments below.


Your comments on last month’s column

Does religious belief affect organizational performance?

We would like to think that religious belief affects organizational performance. Deb Wiesner expressed this sentiment in an email response to the column: “I absolutely believe that when you put your faith in your work, realize that you are serving something bigger than yourself, your employer, your peers , etc. that shows in your work and can have a positive impact on others.

Brian Thatcher said, “I am for maximizing profitability and human capital to support growth within the company and its community. Katherine Lawrence added, “Chinese thought emphasizes harmony, good manners and the greater good of the group. As managers, it is in our interest that this is the case.

There is a complex and extensive set of relationships that determine the impact of religious belief on organizational performance. And the question has been asked whether the research cited in the article (focusing on Confucianism) has fully addressed the issue. Grace Woo commented, “I don’t see Confucianism as a religion…given that ancient wisdom increases the possibility of being accepted by a Christian, a Muslim or an atheist…I wonder if the discussion could be framed more broadly. such as ‘Can the elder’s wisdom be used to influence the values ​​of the organization?’ Bill Fotsch commented, “…I suggest that the driving force is not religion, but rather morality. Morality has been shown to have a positive effect on business and on a nation. Adam Smith (a moralist) who wrote The Wealth of Nations in 1776 is a powerful example.

Crispin Batten also advanced the idea that the relationship has been explored enough, citing the work of Max Weber. He also introduced the idea that it is equally relevant to ask about the relationship in the negative. As he said, religious belief can affect the organization’s performance “if the belief excludes individuals of ‘foreign’ religions from the organization, such as an Islamic bank that does not employ Christians or a strictly Christian business not employing Muslims”.

So perhaps the relevant question should have been: can ancient wisdom be used to influence morality and organizational values? What do you think?


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