Are Export Controls the New Foreign Policy? Indeed, Are National Security Concerns Now Central to U.S. Trade Policy?

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Good opinion piece by Thomas Friedman argues we are now taking on China and Russia and export controls is the critical instrument the U.S. is utilizing.  And this new American foreign policy and national security strategy is focusing on semiconductor chips. In particular, he discusses the new set of export regulations that clearly targets China. Biden’s new annual national security strategy report released last weel clearly targets both China and Russia.

So, the question I have is the following: Are export controls the new foreign policy?  Yes, in part. They are clearly coming into their own as central to implementing U.S. national interests and national security goals in a new era of global politics – where both China and Russia are the major concerns. Robust implementation of our trade laws generally is necessary to implement our foreign policy.  Indeed, changes to CFIUS focusing on China, the recent adoption of computer chip subsidies, and tax credits for e-cars clearly indicate that a broader security – related trade strategy has become a central focus of U.S. foreign policy. (My concern now is how consistent are some of these policies with our obligations under the WTO as well as do they risk political and trade retaliation?)

“Thomas Friedman — China and Russia. (Oct. 12, 2002).

National Security Strategy Report. (Oct. 2022).

How U.S. is Choking off China from Technology.” (Oct. 14, 2022).

Trade has Become a Weapon.” (Oct. 14, 2022).

Biden’s Trade Assault on China.” (Oct. 20, 2022).


About Stuart Malawer

Distinguished Service Professor of Law & International Trade at George Mason University (Schar School of Public Policy).
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