While issues of health care, jobs and immigration dominate domestic issues relevant in the 2020 presidential election, the issue of foreign theft of American intellectual property is getting more attention by leading Democratic hopefuls.
According to a 2018 report by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, IP theft by Chinese companies alone costs the U.S. $225 billion-$600 billion annually. China is by far the biggest offender when it comes to stealing American IP.
While the trade war between China and the U.S. has received a lot of media attention, according to former Vice President Joe Biden it’s China’s unrelenting hacks that compromise both corporate and military secrets that are the bigger problem. Biden, Sen. Kamala Harris, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang all consider the IP theft issue to be a top concern and something they would tackle if elected president.
“They steal our products, including our intellectual property,” Harris said. “They dump substandard products into our economy. They need to be held accountable.”
In the last debate, Yang recalled how a tech CEO friend had intellectual property stolen by the Chinese. As a tech entrepreneur, it is not surprising that this is an issue near and dear to Yang.
In the June debate, Buttigieg said China is using technology to perfect its dictatorship.
“We have to recognize that the China challenge is a serious one,” he said. “This is not something to dismiss or waive away. China is using technology for the perfection of dictatorship. Manufacturers and especially farmers are hurting.”
While these candidates have been the most vocal about Chinese IP theft, the other Democratic candidates indicated they would not immediately repeal at least $300 billion of trade tariffs on Chinese imports if elected.
Theft of IP is both an economic and national security issue CNBC’s Global CFO Council found that one in five North American companies was a victim of Chinese IP theft in the last decade.
A 2018 report by the National Counterintelligence and Security Center stated that China could erode the U.S.’s long-term economic advantage if IP theft is allowed to go unchecked.
In a divisive political arena, the issue of IP theft appears to be one area that Democrats and Republicans can find some common ground. In fact, Congress members from both parties sent a letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper imploring him to take more steps to address Chinese IP infringement. Additionally, this year’s version of the annual National Defense Authorization Act seeks to limit Chinese IP theft.