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Forty-five American business groups have just sent a letter to top Trump administration officials urging them not to impose “sweeping tariffs” on China in response to its longstanding and widespread theft of U.S. “trade secrets and other intellectual property.” That’s not especially newsy, since large elements of the American business community have long opposed any measures that would rock what they consider to be a highly profitable boat – the business they do with the People’s Republic.

Here’s what’s much more newsworthy: The list of signers is missing some of the leading lights of the U.S. trade association world, including the Business Roundtable, the National Association of Manufacturers, and two leading China-specific groups – the US-China Business Council, and the American Chamber of Commerce in China (which is distinct from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, an organization that did sign).

Since the membership of the U.S. Chamber in particular is so all-inclusive, it’s possible that its name on the letter was thought to suffice for many companies belonging to those other groups that are absent. But these companies have never been shy about practicing double- and even triple-counting. So it’s also possible that the above absences indicate that the American business community – and especially the multinational companies that have so powerfully influenced U.S. Trade policy with China for decades – is seriously divided on the tariff issue.

What’s also noteworthy is the letter’s statement that “Tariffs would not only affect Chinese shippers but also harm U.S. companies that sell component pieces of final products exported from China.” In other words, the letter is implicitly acknowledging that many of its signers have been among those companies that have long spearheaded the offshoring of American jobs and entire supply chains to China.

Their offshoring focus of course explains much of their staunch opposition to vigorous Washington responses to such cut-and-dry protectionist Chinese practices as currency manipulation: Although this trade predation has damaged America’s domestic production base, these businesses’ China-based operations have been major beneficiaries.

Similarly, the strong interest of so many of these companies in continuing to coddle China’s mercantilism at the domestic economy’s expense explains the seeming paradox of their main policy message to President Trump: On the one hand, they “continue to have serious concerns regarding China’s trade policies and practices” and admit that their persistence endangers “U.S. global competitiveness, innovation, productivity, and cybersecurity.”

And on the other, they insist that American countermeasures be limited to steps – like “measured, commercially meaningful actions consistent with international obligations” and working “with like-minded partners to address common concerns with China’s trade and investment policies” – that have been tried for years, and that so far have produced nothing but failure.