Trade Protectionism Helps Nobody—Not Even the Pandas

President Joe Biden recently landed a victory in panda diplomacy with the announcement that China is sending two giant pandas to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. The news generated considerable interest from political consultants, who are thrilled that the pandas’ return means they will no longer be the laziest ones in town.

I’m happy they’re back. But watching the Biden administration celebrate its diplomatic achievement with China feels rather distasteful given that, just two weeks earlier, Biden sharply hiked tariffs on a wide range of Chinese imports including steel, aluminum, semiconductors, critical minerals, electric vehicles, and solar panel cells.

Those last two should give us pause. One can only infer that the Biden administration isn’t nearly as alarmed about global warming as it purports to be in public. If climate change poses an existential threat, why raise taxes on the purported solution? The administration argues that tariffs are necessary for America to lead in these fields. This is akin to saying that if one is stricken with a terminal illness, it still matters who invents the cure. We don’t want your medicine; we’ll wait for ours, thank you very much!

When you tax something, you get less of it. That is why we have sin taxes on cigarettes—to discourage smoking. Taxing Chinese solar panels means we will have fewer of them. It’s that simple.

Tariffs aside, the Biden administration also damaged the U.S.-China trade relationship through a recent decision by the Federal Communications Commission to ban telecommunications providers from using Chinese equipment in their broadband services. Politicians have long been riled up about the need to expand internet access in rural areas, but heaven forbid someone from China helps build the routers to do it.

And most egregious, the Biden administration has damaged U.S.-China trade relations through its banning of TikTok. Proponents argue this measure is necessary because the app’s algorithm supposedly brainwashes users and manipulates them into believing all sorts of Chinese propaganda.

I can’t be the only one who finds this notion insulting. It’s long been apparent that politicians view themselves as uniquely brilliant and therefore in need of protecting us from anything that panics them. But can we please give Americans a little more credit for their ability to think for themselves?

So to recap Biden’s trade policies with China: We don’t want your technology, we don’t want your social media companies, we don’t want your semiconductors, we don’t want your steel, we don’t want your aluminum, we don’t want your critical minerals, we don’t want your electric vehicles or solar panels—but we’ll take the bears.

Doesn’t that seem at least a little offensive?

To be entirely fair, Donald Trump‘s trade stance towards China doesn’t appear to be any better. As the Associated Press recently noted, on trade with China, there’s currently not much daylight between the positions of Joe Biden and Donald Trump. And what a shame for us that that’s the case, especially given that increasing economic ties between our two nations reduces the likelihood of future conflict, which we should all want to avoid. Simply put, it’s not good business to bomb your customers.

That is why it is of tremendous importance to push back against calls for more protectionism with China. Trade helps our economy, and it keeps us safe.

Will the real free traders please stand up?

Republished from Newsweek.


  • Jonathan Decker

    Jon Decker is a senior fellow at the Parkview Institute and a leading "supply-side community organizer" in America. In 2015, he launched the Committee to Unleash Prosperity on behalf of Steve Forbes, Larry Kudlow, Arthur Laffer, and Stephen Moore and served as their executive director for 8 years. Decker’s writing and research has been featured in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, DailyMailUK, New York Post,, and the Boston Herald. He has also appeared on national talk radio programs and has been featured on Fox News shows including Hannity. Decker is a graduate of Roger Williams University with over a decade of experience in various public policy roles.

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