GT Voice: US ‘special 301’ report just another piece of trash filled with same old lies
Published: Apr 28, 2022 10:55 PM
China US Photo:GT

China US Photo:GT

In its latest report released on Wednesday US time, the US Trade Representative (USTR) once again put China on its so-called Priority Watch List of trading partners that it deems to have lacked proper protection of intellectual property rights. Senior USTR officials also reportedly said that the Biden administration will continue to closely monitor China's progress in implementing the China-US phase one trade agreement signed in 2020.

The USTR releases a report following its "special 301" investigation each year on intellectual property infringements by trading partner. The report is meant to protect US businesses, but in reality, it is aimed at nothing more than providing pretext for the US government to bully trading partners that it considers unfriendly and unwilling to bow to US pressure. Most countries on the list are perceived US geopolitical adversaries, including China, Russia and Venezuela. This year, the USTR removed Ukraine from the top priority list, citing the conflict. The US has previously listed Ukraine, citing various intellectual property infringements in the country. 

With regard to China, the so-called special 301 investigation is what former US President Donald Trump used as pretext to wage the trade war on China in 2018, when he cited the report to impose punitive tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of Chinese products. Given the Biden administration's hostile approach toward China, it would be a huge surprise if the US removed China from the list. 

Still, no one in China or elsewhere will take the accusations seriously, because the report is more of a political tool and lacks any credibility. China has made great strides in enhancing the protection of intellectual property in recent years through various legislative and regulatory efforts. China has beaten the US in international patent filings for three consecutive years and that lead continues to expand. In 2021, Chinese applicants filed 69,540 Patent Cooperation Treaty applications, compared with 59,570 applications filed by their US counterparts, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization. 

Bolstering the protection of its massive intellectual property is in China's own national interest. It does not need the US government to keep reminding it what to do and how to do it, nor does it need the US government's assessments on its progress. To China, the US' special 301 report is essentially just a piece of paper filled with the same baseless claims that can be easily discarded as a piece of trash.  

What's worrisome though is the growing signs of the Biden administration seeking to not only keep the previous US administration's toxic trade policies intact, but its attempts to escalate the trade war with China. Casting aside growing opposition from and lawsuits filed by US businesses, the Biden administration continues to collect punitive tariffs from Chinese imports and has continued to crack down on an ever-growing list of Chinese companies. Not only that, US officials have also threatened consequences if China does not follow its sanctions against Russia. With all the lies and threats, the Biden administration appears to be beating the drums of a trade war again.   

However, if Washington is counting on these lies and threats to pressure China, it is heading for disappointment. The multi-year trade war did not hold China back as it was intended to do. After all the punitive actions it has taken against China over the past several years, Washington has very few options in its bag of tricks that can exert meaningful pressure on China. On the contrary, any further escalation of the US' trade war will only rub salt into the wounds of US businesses and the broader US economy, which is already reeling from dangerous levels of inflation.