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In life, it’s important to have the right tool for the job, and trade is no different. The technology and intellectual property issues at the heart of the recent US-China trade dispute are complex and nuanced. Tariffs are a big stick good for shaking at partners but also, as the stock markets dramatic reaction shows us, capable of great collateral damage. And so, as an alternative to the blunt instrument of tariffs, we propose some surgical policy interventions, unilateral and bilateral, for moving forward.

The US Trade Representative’s premise for the sanctions is nothing new—that US companies are tired of Beijing’s use of discretionary administrative approvals, joint venture requirements, and other mechanisms to pressure the transfer of technology to Chinese companies. While some of these complaints may have merit, they ignore the steady improvements that China has made, and overlook more tailored solutions supported by China’s willingness to dialogue to stem the unwanted transfer of technology.

In this oped we discuss directly asking China to open its markets, change its licensing laws, and create regulatory transparency, as well as the US using CFIUS, export regulations, and supporting US innovation - solutions

that have the advantage of not requiring a trade war - for moving forward.

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