Donald Trump’s trade speech this week was an eye-opener for me. It was the first time a politician spoke realistically about trade policy, instead of the globalist nostrums we’ve heard from both parties for decades. Plus: he spoke knowledgeably about using enforcement tools that are already available under U.S. law – tools that, frankly, administrations of both parties have avoided using.
Here’s an example: in the Clinton Administration I was a career civil servant and a member of a panel convened by the U.S. Trade Representative to compile an annual report on countries that were violating our intellectual property rights. This could range from pirating software, technology, high-end designer goods and more. Under U.S. law (nicknamed ‘Special 301’), the president could take punitive action by imposing tariffs on imported goods from the bad-actor country.
Why was Special 301 important? Knowledge workers and fashion designers, including entrepreneurs in the high tech sector can make money only if they are paid for what they produce. Intellectual property violators adopt a more Marxist view that ‘property is theft’ and freeload off of other’s work. Because the freeloaders aren’t paying royalties to the developers and designers, they can charge less for Product X than a firm that’s producing the same product but is playing by the rules.