This year, President Donald Trump has made good on his promises to take a hard line on China, ratcheting up tariffs on Chinese goods, cracking down on steel and aluminum imports, and implementing a short-lived ban on Chinese tech firm ZTE.
Beijing has responded in kind, levying retaliatory tariffs on billions of dollars of U.S. goods. “China could be a little bit upset about trade because we are very strongly clamping down on trade,” Trump said in June.
But Chinese companies have become increasingly savvy at hiring U.S. firms to help them fight battles in Washington—and some former U.S. trade officials and lawyers are happy to help.
Below are a sampling of former U.S. officials and former U.S. trade lawyers who now represent Chinese companies as Beijing and Washington square off in an escalating trade war.
Spooner previously served as the assistant secretary of commerce for import administration, and also worked in the office of the U.S. trade representative. He now works as a lawyer for Barnes & Thornburg, where he represents governments and other clients on trade issues. He has represented numerous Chinese companies and trade interests, including Zhongshan Geelong Manufacturing Co. Ltd., a Chinese company that makes tool chests; the firm was fighting the Commerce Department’s 2017 preliminary determination that Geelong and other tool chest manufacturers were dumping their products in U.S. markets.
Boucher served 14 terms as a congressman from Virginia, with a long tenure on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. In 2018, Chinese video surveillance company Hikvision hired lobbying firm Sidley Austin, with Boucher as lead lobbyist, to represent their interests in Washington. The Chinese government owns a majority stake in Hikvision, which provides technology and equipment used to construct the high-tech surveillance state now deployed in China’s western region of Xinjiang, where the government has also created a system of mass internment camps. Boucher has previously lobbied for Huawei, ZTE, and Chinese search engine Baidu.
Kantor served as the U.S. trade representative from 1993 to 1996 and as secretary of commerce from 1996 to 1997, after chairing the Clinton-Gore campaign in 1992. In a 2012 interview with the state-run China Daily, Kantor called the 2012 House intelligence committee report that warned of security risks posed by Huawei and ZTE “vastly overwritten and overstated.” Kantor currently serves as a member of Huawei USA’s advisory board.
Neeley formerly served as attorney in the Office of the General Counsel of the U.S. International Trade Commission, and now works at Husch Blackwell. Neeley represented Chinese diamond sawblades producers, including Beijing Gang Yan Diamond Products Company, after the United States increased antidumping duties on them in 2014. The U.S. has continued to renew antidumping duty orders on Chinese diamond sawblades producers through 2018.
Campbell worked as an attorney for the Federal Trade Commission from 2000 to 2003. He currently works for the Washington law firm White & Case. Earlier this year, he represented Chinese steel wheel makers in new antidumping investigations currently being conducted by the Commerce Department. The investigations started when two U.S. companies filed petitions alleging that Chinese government subsidies were allowing Chinese steel wheel companies to sell their products in the United States below market price. Campbell served as counsel for Chinese steel wheel maker Zhejiang Jingu in court proceedings, arguing that U.S. domestic industry didn’t show signs of negative impact.
Layton served as senior counsel to the Commerce Department from 1994 to 1999. He now heads the international trade law practice at U.S.-based law firm Mayer Brown. In 2009, Layton represented GITI Tire (China) Investment Co., Ltd, after the U.S. International Trade Commission initiated an investigation into market disruptions caused by Chinese tire imports. Later that year, President Obama raised tariffs on Chinese tire imports for a period of three years.