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Trump Admin Poised to Fight Trade War With Tariffs, Technology Restrictions and U.S. Law

Much of the talk of trade war between the United States and China, and perhaps other countries, has focused on traditional trade measures and counter-measures like tariffs that strike at the core of international trade: most basically, the movement of goods and services across international borders.

Where China is concerned, a second, and more significant battle is brewing on the intellectual property front. On national security grounds, the United States is acting to curb Chinese investment in sensitive U.S. technologies like Artificial Intelligence and semiconductors. Under consideration are measures to subject Chinese joint ventures with and acquisitions of U.S. firms to greater scrutiny  by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) and, potentially, restrict participation by Chinese nationals in research conducted at U.S. universities and research institutions. These steps are likely to be implemented by legislation, such as a CFIUS reform bill pending in Congress and/or through executive action invoking the President’s emergency powers under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), a 1977 law that underpins a number of U.S. sanctions and export controls.

In addition to these well-known plans, the Trump Administration is poised to deploy an unconventional trade war tactic that leverages U.S. sanctions, anti-corruption and anti-money laundering laws to advance its “America First” agenda. The legal strategy is significant. It could it wreak legal, commercial and reputational havoc on economic rivals, particularly China. And, the approach would muddle lines between traditional trade facilitation laws and other laws that, while applicable to trade and financial transactions, were not conceived and have not been enforced to tip the balance of bilateral or international trade in favor of the United States.

These three discernable prongs of the Trump Administration’s international trade strategy are worth watching and will be discussed further by Hdeel Abdelhady on MassPoint PLLC and in third-party publications.


For information about MassPoint’s international business and banking services, including U.S. sanctions, anti-corruption and anti-money laundering counseling and compliance, contact Hdeel Abdelhady at

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