US-China Intellectual Property Trade Wars
RESEARCH HANDBOOK ON TRADE WARS, Zeng Ka and Liang Wei, eds., Edward Elgar Publishing, 2022, Forthcoming
21 Pages Posted: 13 Oct 2021 Last revised: 19 Oct 2021
Date Written: September 17, 2021
More than two decades ago, the literature on the Chinese intellectual property system was filled with commentaries on the trade threats exchanged between the United States and China in relation to the inadequate protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights in the latter. At that time, China has not yet joined the World Trade Organization. In the past few years, we once again have been confronted with multiple rounds of trade threats—this time as part of a trade war, which has thus far involved tariffs on close to $750 billion worth of goods. Although the current U.S.-China trade war implicates many items ranging from agricultural produce to electronic goods to financial services, inadequate protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights in China remains one of the few oft-cited justifications.
This chapter begins by recounting the trade threats exchanged between the two countries in the early 1990s in relation to the lack of intellectual property protection and enforcement in China. It then explores the United States' use of a new-found strategy in the mid-2000s: the WTO dispute settlement process. Noting the United States' mixed success with that process, this chapter turns to the ongoing U.S.-China trade war, which began during the Trump Administration but has continued into the Biden Administration. The current U.S. approach combines the coercive tactics used more than two decades ago with the newer strategy of WTO dispute settlement. The chapter concludes by identifying eight lessons that we can draw from trade threats, trade wars and more broadly the use of coercive tactics to strengthen intellectual property protection and enforcement in China.
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