The trade war is legitimate
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The trade war secures American interests legitimately
China engages in unfair economic practices. Therefore, it is legitimate for America to protect itself by instituting tariffs. This pressure is the only way to force China to negotiate an end to the trade war by agreeing to stop its unfair practices.
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President Trump claims that the trade war is a legitimate response to years of unfair Chinese economic practices. If one country doesn't play by the rules, then the rules shouldn't protect them.
China engages in unfair economic practices. These are practices that are illegal (theft of intellectual property), not illegal but unfair (demanding that foreign firms gift technology in exchange for market access, or artificially devaluing its currency), and intense competition. The trade war was a legitimate response to unfair economic practices because the U.S. is trying to get China to change. Since China will not change without pressure, the trade war will help America achieve its goal. In order for China to negotiate an end to the trade war, it must agree to stop its unfair practices. Even if this goal is not achieved, the trade war is still legitimate because the United States has the right to defend its economy against unfair practices. The U.S. can’t sit by and not do anything when its businesses are being harmed. Tariffs are a way to help level the playing field for U.S. businesses. It was important to try to stop China’s unfair practices even if the U.S. doesn’t get the result that it is hoping for.
China's economic practices are not sufficiently unfair to warrant retaliation. China has taken steps to reduce intellectual property thefts, as with the 2014 hacks cited in the main argument. More broadly, the mere fact that China employs economic strategies that are beneficial to itself does not imply that those practices are unfair. Also, the trade war was not the right form of retaliation. The bilateral approach of the trade war is inappropriate. There were alternative avenues for the U.S. to pursue, such as arbitration by international bodies like the World Trade Organization. Finally, the United States' self-interest is not the only relevant interest at play. The trade war causes harm to other economies beyond China's (an argument discussed elsewhere in this issue). The trade war resulting in harm to other countries renders it illegitimate.
[P1] China engages in unfair economic practices. [P2] Therefore, retaliation via a trade war is legitimate.
Rejecting the premises
[Rejecting P1] China's practices do not generally cross the threshold of 'unfairness'. [Rejecting P2] Even if China engages in unfair practices, unilateral action renders the trade war illegitimate.