US Ban On TikTok: Could The UK Be Dragged Into A Trade War?

Buried deep in the US Senate’s foreign aid support package for Ukraine is a fast track provision to ban the Chinese social media platform TikTok unless it is sold by its Chinese owners ByteDance to a US-approved buyer, something ByteDance have said they will not do.

The US government says is concerned TikTok could share data about its US users with the Chinese Government and if any US ban goes ahead and a deal not struck it could spread to the UK as the USA (spurred on by Republicans and many Democrats will undoubtedly pressures allies to follow suit.

With the UK tied closer than ever to the USA following Brexit the result could be a spill over trade battle with China. It is problem an incoming Labour Government will have to deal with.

The US was the largest of all UK export markets in 2023. For the four quarters to September 2023, UK exports of goods and services to the US were worth £193.1bn – that’s 21.9% of all UK exports.

TikTok is very popular with young people in the USA and UK  and is a big source of revenue for small  retailers in both countries.

UK TikTok users spend more time on the social media platform than any other country in the world, with 1 in 2 UK users saying they frequently purchase products to be found on TikTok.

Globally, 58% of TikTok users find new brands and products on the app – 14% more than on any other platform. 61% of all users have made a purchase either directly on TikTok or online immediately after seeing an ad on the app.

New start-ups among online retailers use TikTok to communicate directly with customers and use short videos and creator content to promote their products.

TikTok has 170 million US users and well over 23 million in the UK. Over 40% of UK TikTok users are aged 18-24 years old.

However, the fact is that many of the chips in our mobile phones, cars and the devices used every day are made in China and have not faced such a ban.

TikTok has nine months to find new owners before a ban is imposed – but it could be years before the app is blocked in the US, as TikTok’s owners may well bring legal action which could reach the US Supreme Court. Any ban would have to be introduced over period of time starting with new customers unable to download the app, while current users would lose access to updates, with potential one years notice of the implementation of  the ban.


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