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When will US consumers be free to choose EVs?

March 28, 2024

BEIJING – Milton Friedman, the leader of the Chicago school of economics, made a famous speech about a pencil in a 10-hour PBS broadcast series called “Free to Choose” in 1980. The Economics Nobel Prize winner held up a pencil and explained how even a simple object like a pencil takes people’s efforts and resources from across the world to make. When Friedman delivered the speech, trade accounted for only about 37 percent of the total global GDP.

Today, trade accounts for 63 percent of the global GDP. But the increase in trade’s share of global GDP has also increased trade frictions and sanctions.

The US Department of Commerce has started an investigation to determine whether Chinese-made technologies, apps and tools posed a threat to US national security. But the so-called data security risks the US administration seems worried about can be addressed by implementing effective policies and regulations on cross-border data flow. But instead of finding a real and sensible solution to the problem, some US officials and congressmen are eager to block the import of Chinese-made EVs. The real reason behind all this is of course economic.

A recent Alliance for American Manufacturing report describes the EV competition as “China’s existential threat to America’s auto industry”. Its argument, like all previous arguments in favor of blocking foreign goods from entering the domestic market, is all about domestic workers’ job security and how imports would hurt the domestic industry. If that argument were true, we would have seen millions of US citizens losing their jobs and the US economy stagnating over the past 30 years when US imports from China increased by 3,800 percent. But that is obviously not the case.