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Trump’s China tariffs could sabotage America’s 5G lead

Trump’s China tariffs could sabotage America’s 5G lead
[Photo: Alexandre Debiève/Unsplash]

The fifth-generation wireless network, or “5G” as it’s known, will radically transform our society. Not only will we be able to download 4K movies in seconds (on today’s 4G technology it takes hours), but 5G will enable a true “internet of things” where everything from the devices in our pockets to self-driving cars to city infrastructure like streetlights are connected by the same ultra-fast network. 5G is so important to the future of commerce and infrastructure, China and America are in a virtual arms race over becoming the leader in the field.

But now thanks to Trump’s Chinese tariffs, America could be at risk of losing that arms race. That’s because, as Jessica Rosenworcel, a commissioner on the Federal Communications Commission, points out on Politico, Trump’s tariffs target Chinese exports that America must import if it wants to build out its 5G infrastructure:

Last week, the U.S. Trade Representative finalized new tariffs on an additional $200 billion of Chinese imports. Buried deep in the 200-page schedule of goods subject to the new tax are listings that include “machines for the reception, conversion, and transmission or regeneration of voice, images, or other data, including switching and routing apparatus.” You’ll also encounter entries for “apparatus for transmission or reception of voice, images, or other data, including apparatus for communication in a wired or wireless network.”

While those listings may not ring alarms, they should. That’s because 5G technology requires installing a lot of things that qualify as an “apparatus for communication.”

In other words, Trump just made it much more expensive for American companies to buy the tech they need to ensure the U.S. leads the way in 5G. And it’s not just the technology’s rollout that Trump’s tariffs will hurt. Building a world-leading U.S. 5G network is estimated to boost the American economy by half a trillion dollars and create 3 million new jobs. Or, it would have done that if it didn’t just become much more expensive to buy the needed tech from China.

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