One of the few good reasons to buy the South China Morning Post these days is to read Jake van der Kamp's "Monitor" column. I've only met him once, but he struck me as a nice guy and he takes a refreshingly independent view on most issues, normally backed up with facts and figures.
I was hoping that today he was going to de-bunk the government's theory that tourists from the PRC are what are boosting Hong Kong's economy, but instead he is discussing the US imposition of tarrifs on TV sets from China. Under the somewhat misleading headline Perspective gives clearer view on TV row, Jake van der Kamp tries to get a clearer picture of what is happening.
Unfortunately for him, there aren't enough facts and figures to form a clear judgement. The figures seem to show that China has significantly increased its exports of TVs, but is still a long way behind Japan, and that their prices have dropped significantly (by about 20% in the last 18 months).
He says that local government in China has a significant shareholding in TV manufacturers (on what basis, I am not sure), and that it is therefore "just possible" that these companies may be less interested in their P&L and simply want to earn US dollars.
Well, maybe, but that hardly amounts to proof that China is "dumping" TV sets at below cost price.
The point I would expect Jake to make is that the whole idea of tarrifs and quotas is inconsistent with US policies on free trade, and probably unhelpful to their economy. How can it possibly be beneficial to the US to stop other countries exporting cheap televisions? It's not a strategically important sector and there is no leading-edge technology involved. This is protectionism, pure and simple. Instead his conclusion is that we should "wait a little before proclaiming that the US case is utterly without justice". Blimey.