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Current Trade Deficit:    
China Apologists Serve Up Perverse Moral Equivalence
Alan Tonelson
Monday, October 01, 2012
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You know that policy positions have collapsed on the merits when their supporters start flinging around moral equivalence charges wildly – and disgracefully.  So a recent column and Washington Post editorial condemning President Obama’s latest trade enforcement action versus China can only be good news for anyone recognizing that appeasing foreign mercantilism is no way to run U.S. trade policy.

Not that the President’s World Trade
Organization complaint against China’s export subsidies for auto parts can possibly boost the American economy or even the automotive sector meaningfully – even if a favorable verdict is eventually won.  Like most foreign government support for industries, Chinese subsidies are too thoroughly fungible, and the bureaucracies administering them too secretive, for legalistic WTO-like approaches to eliminate.  In other words, Beijing can all too easily agree to drop the offending practices and then make the payments from another source, under another name, long before a victim U.S. industry can even identify the ruse.  

But the dangerous and indeed slanderous inanity of the Obama suit’s loudest critics was laid bare first by columnist Michael Casey.  In a September 19 essay, he lumped in the President’s “politically well-timed World Trade Organization complaint against China” with the “anti-American protesters hurling rocks at riot police in Egypt, and …Chinese youths wearing ‘Boycott Japan’ T-shirts who tussled with a security cordon in Shenzhen” as examples of “jingoist,” “bigoted,” “fundamentalist” forces increasingly endangering “globalization and economic growth.”

A few days later, a Washington Post editorial characterized the President’s trade case as the same kind of dangerous “nationalist game” represented by “mass demonstrations in scores of Chinese cities, where crowds burned Japanese flags, trashed Japanese cars and sang patriotic songs — all under the approving eyes of state security forces.”

In other words, according to Casey and Post editorial writers, the president’s usage of an instrument of international law whose creation they strongly supported springs from an impulse identical to, and as repugnant as, the most intolerant forms of Islamic extremism and the Chinese government’s stoking of mob violence.  
Of course, the policy implications of these arguments are as perverse as their ethical perspective is askew.  Their advocates used to urge the United States to give up its internationally recognized authority to defend and promote its economic interests unilaterally in order to establish a multilateral system that would be just as effective and more conducive to open trade.  Now some of these same voices are insinuating that using this multilateral system should be taboo also – at least for Americans.  

If Casey and the Post’s editorial writers have any integrity left, they’ll either admit that they simply want to allow foreign governments and industries to be free to destroy America’s productive economy.  Or they’ll just keep quiet until they decide to offer something constructive to policymakers.  

(Sources: “Anti-foreigner sentiment hurts the economy,” by Michael Casey,, September 19, 2012,; “Saber rattling in China and Japan,” The Washington Post, September 21, 2012,

Alan Tonelson is a Research Fellow at the U.S. Business & Industry Educational Foundation and the author of The Race to the Bottom: Why a Worldwide Worker Surplus and Uncontrolled Free Trade are Sinking American Living Standards (Westview Press).