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Opinion: The Logic and Politics of U.S.-China Trade Tensions

Despite a litany of warnings from experts and some of his own advisors as evidenced in the resignation of his chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn, U.S. President Donald Trump is determined to pursue a series of counterproductive, protectionist measures. Tariffs levied in January on imported solar equipment and washing machines have now been followed by proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. Many observers realize that China is the ultimate target of such measures and thus even more significant will be the actions taken based on Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 for alleged discriminatory investment practices and intellectual property rights violations. These penalties are likely to be China-specific, much more severe, and if implemented would seriously damage bilateral relations.

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