Biden’s Trade Policies — One Year In — Same as Trump’s? More Aggressive?

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[Excerpts from a forthcoming article, now on SSRN at https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3991157  Also available as draft at Click Here. ……………

The big question is the following: Is the Biden trade policy different from the Trump chaos? 

My answer is “no.” I consider Biden’s trade policy to be Trump’s without the tweets. They both rely on unilateral measures and broaden protectionist ones.  In fact, Biden not only relies upon Trump’s actions but also has broadened them.[1] 

Trade issues have reemerged during the past few months as high-priority domestic and foreign policy issues for the Biden administration. This is especially true for the situation regarding trade with China and how this relates to U.S. domestic economic and national security issues. Let’s look at what Trump did, what Biden has done so far, and the challenges ahead. 

Not much change has been made in trade policies between President Trump and President Biden. In fact, Biden, relying on Trump’s actions, has broadened them. A slight change in tune has occurred: a little more reconciliation with Europe and international organizations. However, it is extremely difficult to identify any significant difference concerning China, Russia, or Iran. Has Trump’s America First policy morphed into Biden’s America First or Workers trade policy? 

The Biden administration is confronting various trade challenges: removing Trump’s tariffs that are still in place; joining the revised TPP, especially now that China and South Korea have indicated their interest in joining; reengaging with the WTO, especially over the dispute resolution system; enforcing the Phase One Agreement with China, particularly the purchase requirements; and more forcefully confronting China’s policies concerning state-owned enterprises and government subsidies. Other issues relating to trade are pending and growing in importance—for example, climate change, a carbon tax, environmental issues, and pandemics. 

What specifically must be done by the Biden administration? A great deal. That’s another story. 

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[1] I have written several journal articles recently on Trump’s trade policies and early trade actions by President Biden. Malawer, Trump, Litigation and Threats: From Queens to the World Stage. China and WTO Review 209 (No. 1) (2021). Available at http://cwr.yiil.org/home/pdf/archives/2020v6n1/cwr_v6n1_08.pdf; Malawer, Biden’s Trade Policies — Recalibrated, More Focused, and a Bit Concerning.7 China and WTO Review 391 (No. 2) (2021) Available at http://cwr.yiil.org/home/pdf/archives/2021v7n2/cwr_v7n2_07.pdf; Malawer. Biden –National Security, Law and Global Trade: Less Subterfuge and More Strategy in the New Era of Crisis. China and WTO Review 185 (No. 1) (2021). Available at http://cwr.yiil.org/home/pdf/archives/2021v7n1/cwr_v7n1_09.pdf 

About Stuart Malawer

Distinguished Service Professor of Law & International Trade at George Mason University (Schar School of Public Policy).
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