Make tariff war short

So, you’re sitting at your kitchen table one evening when a brainstorm hits: You’ve come up with a new way to manufacture a much-used product. Your technology is cheaper than anything currently in use. You’ll patent it, open a factory and be rich beyond your wildest dreams.

Unless the Chinese government decides to allow someone in that country to hack into your computer, steal your idea, and reap the profits that rightly belonged to you.

Now you know how some individuals and companies in the United States feel about China. U.S. officials say the term “intellectual property” is virtually meaningless in Beijing.

Chinese companies and perhaps the government itself routinely steal sensitive technology developed here, according to U.S. officials. Despite promises to crack down on such theft, the Chinese government does little or nothing to prevent it.

That is one reason, but by no means the only one, why our two countries are on the brink of a trade war.

Negotiations on a new agreement regarding trade between the two nations seemed to be going well until just a few days ago. Then, they broke down and President Donald Trump increased U.S. tariffs on about $200 billion a year in imports from China. Beijing retaliated Monday with higher tariffs on about $60 billion a year in imports from this country.

That already has driven stock prices down. There have been warnings American consumers will pay through the nose for Trump’s tariffs.

That is because the trade imbalance between the two countries is huge. Last year, U.S. consumers bought $539 billion worth of goods manufactured in China. Trade going the other way amounted to just $120.3 billion. Imports of computers and other electronic items from China, at $186.5 billion last year, eclipsed the total in U.S. products sold there.

No one wins a trade war, it has been said. To an extent, that is true.

However, unless there is a day of reckoning regarding China’s unfair trade practices, including theft of intellectual property, they will continue. Who will win then? Who will lose?

It is to be hoped U.S. and Chinese negotiators can work out their differences — and Beijing will abide, honestly, by the results.

As technology becomes more and more important in the world economy, encouraging those who develop — not steal — it, grows more and more vital.

Trump and other U.S. officials should do all in their power to make the current trade war a short conflict. But that does not include a wholesale surrender to China’s unfair trade tactics.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)