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If China Throws Out Google, We Should Throw Out their Computers

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The concept of reciprocity in trade has a long and storied history, and one that ought to be remembered today. Simply put, if we allow market access for the fruits of the great Chinese industrial machine, creating jobs for 100 million Chinese workers (the number of Chinese employed in manufacturing), they need to allow access to our creative enterprises, such as Google.

But not only is Google being forced out by a series of actions and deliberate inactions of the Chinese government, but Google's affiliate, YouTube, was never even let into China in the first place. It is perennially blocked by their "great firewall". Nor do most other U. S. websites have unfettered access to China. eBay has left China. Many newspaper websites are regularly censored. The Chinese competitive sites that are willing to go along with the censorship and the dictates of the Chinese government, like Baidu and Alibaba, are the dominant players on the Chinese internet. This is not only a question of freedom of speech. It is also a trade barrier and a major economic problem for the United States. Google alone has over 20,000 employees, many in the United States, and they and the company are undercut by these actions, as are the workers at eBay and other website companies.

We are struggling to rebuild our manufacturing sector, but while that occurs, we need to make sure companies like Google have full access to the largest internet market in the world, China. If a company cannot access the largest market in the world for its product it loses enormous revenue opportunities. And as a matter of economies of scale and ability to move down the learning curve, it becomes economically disadvantaged versus its competitors going forward.

There had been an implicit agreement about the internet made between China and the United States. The United States agreed to lower all its tariffs on high technology manufactured goods to zero, and we agreed to let in all that China could send over here, no questions asked. What is the result of that? The result is that substantially all United States computers are now made in China. We even went so far as to allow the first U. S. PC maker, IBM, to sell its PC division to a Chinese company, Lenovo. That sale could have been stopped, under a U. S. law called the Exon-Florio Act, but not only did we not stop it, we did not even question it.

Why? Because we believed that as China industrialized and moved along the economic and knowledge highway they would become a great market for those goods where we continue to have an advantage, things like search engines, and streaming video, and innovative web sites. We believed they would keep their side of the bargain.

But they have not. So we are now in a completely untenable position, as a country and as an economy. The hardware of the internet, computers, disk drives, semiconductors, peripherals, are all made in China, not here. Much of the software of the internet, which is made here, advanced here, and continually reinvented here, is banned from China. So their industries grow, they develop more jobs, their economy avoids the recession. Our economy shrinks, our job base deteriorates, and our creative enterprises suffer because they are denied access to the largest internet market in the world.

And the trend is only getting worse. More and more high-tech producers are moving their factories to China, because of subsidies, cheap labor, low environmental standards, and currency manipulation. Ironically, it was only a short time ago that we thought computers and semiconductors were the kind of creative industries we would always keep in the U. S. But they have now basically left our shores, though the even more creative side of the internet has not (yet). The largest computer manufacturing area in the world is in Guangdong Province, north of Hong Kong, where Foxconn employs 200,000 people as a subcontractor to many U. S. and other worldwide computer brands. While this is occurring, thousands of U. S. engineers and assembly line workers are unemployed.

The Chinese government wants trade to be a completely one-sided affair where China builds up knowledge and industrial might and trade reserves and we get nothing. If there is any area where we clearly have a comparative advantage it is the complex and dynamically creative space that Google occupies.

In 2009, China exported $126 billion of computers and electrical equipment to the United States. We exported a paltry $14 billion to them. Given these favorable terms of trade, one would think they would be careful with our further downstream internet companies, but they are not.

Demanding reciprocity is not protectionist and should not subject us to criticism from China, the WTO, or even the most free of free traders. Reciprocity is what the trade agreements of the world are about. We let you sell in our market the goods you can make more efficiently and more creatively. You let us sell in your market the goods and services we produce. If China shuts out our internet companies, we need to shut out their hardware that the internet runs on.