By Bradley Fowler, MA, MSc., MPP
In 2003, Anthony Wayne, Assistant Secretary for Economic and Business Affairs for the California Chamber of Commerce International Trade breakfast shared these words in his opening speech regarding how foreign trade fits into U.S. national security interests. Economic growth helps establish free tree, free markets, and investment creates new jobs and raises incomes. Economic growth lifts people out of poverty as well as spurs
economic reform. However, trade is not just economics. Free trades encompass freedom and educates societies. The United States developing countries partnerships whom we negotiate free trade agreements with, in places such as Central America and Southern Africa, the United States desires to create basic building blocks for sustainable development, private
property rights, competition, rules of law, transparency, a free flow of technology as well as regional integration (U.S. Department of State, 2003). As humbling as this message was in 2003; in 2021, the U.S. seems entangled in a foreign trade war that impacts the ability for consumers and businesses to trade freely; without fear of being victimized by cyber-criminals from Asian territories.
To help educate readers about the steps being deployed to reduce foreign trade and national security issues that impact U.S. consumers and businesses. The U.S. Department of Commerce expresses that dealing with U.S. economic prosperity and security issues, can be a daunting task when dealing with competitors and adversaries who engage in illegal trade practices, “steal intellectual property (IP), and engage in cyber crime” (U.S. Department of Commerce, n.d.). Thus, the U.S. Department of Commerce is operating on multiple platforms to effectively protect U.S. citizens and the U.S. economy, while enforcing compliance with trade laws that align with cybersecurity methodologies that thwart cyber crime. So, in 2021, why is there still so much warfare enveloped in foreign trade, when there is an open highway of foreign trade with the use of technology?
The U.S. Department of Commerce conveys that U.S. businesses can thrive effectively when competition is equal internationally. This is a primary reason why the U.S. Department of Commerce enforces an equal playing field. Enforcing U.S. trade laws builds trust and influences foreign governments to comply and align their foreign trade laws with international agreements. Working closely with foreign governments to assure the enforcement of intellectual property rights establishes a competitive edge and ensures U.S. innovations are protected abroad. Thus, when faced with concerns of intellectual property infringement and violation of cyber crime laws, United States national security must effectively deploy strategies that not only reduce threatening concerns, but thwart cyber crime that can cost the U.S. billions.
In the 2021 National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers, it is reported that challenges exist when determining the actual cost of foreign trade on U.S. goods, when other countries neglect to clearly share information about the cost of importing and exporting foreign goods in their country. While some countries align their policies with the United States, many other countries do not (United States Trade Representative, 2021). Thus, it is necessary for the United States Department of Commerce and National Security Agency to work in concert with all countries to establish a catalyst of communication, where all parties can attain equality in foreign trade and decrease potential threat of cybercrime that typically results in retaliation due to miscommunication of foreign trade affairs.
However, when governments support the nefarious acts of cybercriminals, agreements of foreign trade affairs are entangled in sandbox war that impacts the economies of those countries. In fact, the 2021 National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers, convey that U.S foreign trade estimates decreased by ten percent in 2020, down from the rise in
2019. In 2020, the United States and China signed an economic and trade agreement, classified as “Phase One Agreement”. This agreement initiated an improved structure of reform and additional improvements to China’s economic and trade regime, encompassing intellectual property, technological transfer, agriculture, financial services, and current and foreign exchange. This Phase One Agreement also includes a commitment by China to agree to make substantial purchases of U.S. products and services in 2020 and 2021. More importantly, this Phase One Agreement creates a strong negotiation resolution system that provides assurance of effective deployment and enforcement of U.S. trade laws and policies. How long will this agreement be the driving force to bond these two countries, is left to be
studied. If China continues to operate in alignment with the United States as hoped, perhaps the indifferences of communication and exchange of products and services, can finally be set aside, and America and China can join forces and build an alliance that enables both countries to work in harmony. However, even with this Phase One Agreement, concerns still exist regarding tariffs, industrial policies, industrial subsidies, fisheries subsidies, indigenous innovation, technology transfer, investment restrictions, administrative licensing, and standardizations.
One effective approach to bridge the gap on this issue is being more transparent in national security policies including cybersecurity policy. Not just American cybersecurity policy, but China. The U.S. released its National Cyber Strategy in 2018 after former president Donald J. Trump signed the executive order. To date, China’s cybersecurity policy is in its foreign
language, preventing cybersecurity policy researchers from gaining clarity on how to align issues of cybersecurity with China. Thus, learning to humble oneself to honor the traditions of a country that is noted for not humbling itself to respect the traditions of another, can be the dividing factor that prevents effective resolutions from being established. This Phase One Agreement is a step forward in resolving foreign trade affairs that impact U.S. consumerism and business. But if China’s government does not implement effective methods to deter and/or control the nefarious actions of its cybercriminals from targeting U.S. businesses and consumers, this new agreement is not the foundational answer Americans need to feel secure in working with China on foreign trade concerns. Thus, it is imperative that China thrive to share its national security cybersecurity policy, in English, to
assure all countries who already provide their cybersecurity policy in English, that China is willingly interested in deterring and combating cybercrime that impacts the freedom of foreign trade and its impact on national security concerns. In doing so, the Phase One Agreement can not only be the alternative approach to improving foreign trade agreements, but perhaps be the catalyst to raise trust in China and American economic concerns.
U.S. Department of State. (2003). Trade as an Element of National Security.
Retrieved from: https://2001-2009.state.gov/e/eeb/rls/rm/2003/28534.htm
U.S. Department of Commerce (n.d.). Strengthen U.S. Economic and National
Security. Retrieved [4/14/2021] from: https://www.commerce.gov/about/strategic-plan/strengthen-us-economic- and-national-security
U.S. Trade Representative. (2021). 2021 National Trade Estimate Report on
Foreign Trade Barriers. Retrieved from: https://ustr.gov/sites/default/files/files/reports/2021/2021NTE.pdf