The World Trade Organization (WTO) has ruled that the Trump administration’s tariffs on over $200 billion worth of Chinese goods are illegal under the rules of the trade organization. In the description of the Associated Press, the WTO “ruled against the Trump administration’s argument that China has engaged in practices harmful to U.S. interests, on issues including intellectual property theft, technology transfer and innovation.” As the AP’s report further clarifies, the WTO ruled that the Trump administration “had not adequately substantiated its claim that the Chinese products hit with the extra duties had benefited from the allegedly unfair Chinese practices.”
The Associated Press notes that the Trump administration can appeal the ruling, but “the WTO’s appeals court is currently no longer functioning – largely because of Washington’s single-handed refusal to accept new members for it,” so it’s unclear what may happen next.
The Trump administration has accused China of unfairly targeting U.S. businesses with efforts meant to force the transfer of technological expertise to local interests. For example, some companies have been required to enter into a partnership with local interests when trying to do business in the country, although there have recently been some updates to economic rules within China.
Besides the shaky at best foundation for the Trump administration’s economic arguments against China, there’s also been overt racism on the Trump team’s part against the country. Trump belligerently insists on referring to the Coronavirus as the “China Virus,” claiming that the country is somehow innately responsible for the pandemic. One of the contexts in which Trump shows some of the most concern for the virus is when he’s trying to pin the blame for the outbreak in the United States on anyone but himself, although he’s the president who majorly fumbled pandemic response.
Meanwhile, many of the Trump administration’s claims about trade are rather vague. Trump, for instance, has repeatedly pointed to “trade deficits” that the U.S. has with certain other countries as supposed justifications for his draconian trade policies, but these trade deficits — in which the U.S. takes in more from a particular country than it sends out — do not necessarily entail some kind of anti-American economic manipulation. The influxes of goods from a place like China may be necessary for the support of other economic areas in which the U.S. comes out ahead.
When discussing trade deficits, Trump has occasionally outright lied — in 2018, for instance, he repeatedly claimed that the U.S. had one with Canada, but when factoring services into the equation and not just goods, it did not. At the time, The Washington Post obtained an audio recording of a speech to donors in which Trump admitted that he “made up trade claim in meeting with Justin Trudeau,” as the paper’s headline put it. He claimed to Trudeau’s face that the U.S. had a trade deficit with Canada, but he admitted to those donors on tape that he did not actually have supporting information for his claim at the time. There was no legitimately supporting information. Trump simply has problems with reality.